Editorial | Avoiding a regional conflagration

In all this, Malta can offer to serve as an honest broker between the warring sides


Israel’s relentless bombing and blockade of Gaza is despicable, inhumane and goes against the precepts of international law.

While Israel has every right to defend itself and go after Hamas militants and their support structures following the heinous terrorist attacks of 7 October, it has no right to apply collective punishment on the more than two million people who live in Gaza.

Unfortunately, Israel has interpreted the widespread solidarity shown to it in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks as a carte blanche to do as it pleases.

The situation in Gaza has now developed into a massive humanitarian crisis that is causing numerous innocent victims and risks sparking regional unrest. Already, the bombing of a hospital in Gaza on Tuesday night has caused massive demonstrations in several capitals in the Middle East and beyond. It has become a moot point who is really to blame for the shameful bombing that killed more than 500 people.

The region is standing on a precipice with the risk of a wider conflict involving Hezbollah in Lebanon and possibly Iran becoming a probability.

The world must avoid a regional conflagration that could destabilise several countries in the Middle East, turning the whole region into a tinder keg.

The US, which has the strongest leverage on Israel, must flex its muscles and call for maximum restraint by Israel as it prepares for a ground invasion of Gaza. In the immediate, the US must insist on the lifting of the Gaza siege and secure humanitarian corridors to allow medical supplies and other basic goods and services to reach ordinary citizens.

While talking about lasting peace at this juncture is of little value, given the emergency humanitarian situation, the continued sporadic firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and Israeli reprisals, it is only a renewed political process that can resolve the decades-old conflict.

From a European perspective, the EU must speak with one voice, as it adopts a more balanced approach that condemns Hamas’s attacks while calling on Israel to respect international law in the way it defends itself.

With the conflict in Ukraine still raging, the EU cannot afford having a second conflict in its Mediterranean neighbourhood that risks blowing up into something much bigger.

Every effort must be made for the EU to pressure Israel into lifting the Gaza blockade and exert maximum caution not to target civilians.

The EU must also ensure that it remains an aid donor to Palestinians, making sure the money does not reach Hamas operatives.

However, the EU must also be vigilant and ensure internal security is beefed up to stem any actions by radicalised youth in response to Israel’s punishment of Palestinians living in Gaza.

But the EU with other partners in the region and beyond must seek a long-term solution that would see the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The EU must work to apply pressure on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to start a sincere dialogue on a long-term solution.

The world does not afford to see the Gaza conflict spread to other countries. It is only political dialogue held in good faith that will eventually lead to peace and justice even though this seems a very remote possibility at this juncture.

In all this, Malta can offer to serve as an honest broker between the warring sides.

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