The Guardian view on the catastrophe in Gaza: it must not be overshadowed by the Iran crisis | Editorial

The Middle East is “on the precipice” and “one miscalculation, one miscommunication, one mistake, could lead to the unthinkable,” the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, warned on Thursday. Israel has vowed to retaliate to Iran’s weekend barrage of missiles and drones – itself a response to Israel’s killing of two generals at an Iranian diplomatic facility in Damascus. It is hard to have confidence in either’s ability to calibrate their actions when both have misjudged already.

Yet the spectre of full-scale regional conflict, and the many deaths that could result, must not draw attention away from the almost 34,000 Palestinians already killed in Gaza, according to its health authorities, and the many more who will soon die without an immediate ceasefire and massive increase in aid in what Mr Guterres called a “humanitarian hellscape”.

Joe Biden, losing support in his own party over his response, finally turned up the pressure on Israel following the deaths of foreign aid workers earlier this month, resulting in the opening of more crossing points for humanitarian goods and pledges of a surge in supplies of food and medicine. In reality, progress was slow to materialise, inconsistent and wholly inadequate, with improvements in some areas offset by problems elsewhere.

Restrictions on shipments and the breakdown in security mean that starvation still grips the population, particularly in the north. The US said that monitoring aid shipments was a priority, but it is clear that its attention has shifted. Even in the unlikely event that tomorrow saw an end to the war and vast quantities of aid distributed across Gaza, the famine that has already set in would continue to claim lives.

Hopes of a ceasefire have ebbed too. Qatar has said that it will reconsider its role as mediator – suggesting it no longer feels that the investment of diplomatic effort and credibility as a broker is worthwhile with the odds on a deal dwindling. The prospect of an offensive on Rafah, where at least 1.4 million have fled to escape fighting elsewhere, looms. Reports suggest the Israeli military is preparing for an assault by deploying extra artillery and armoured personnel carriers nearby. Benjamin Netanyahu may well prefer continuing to threaten a ground offensive to actually mounting one. But his far-right coalition partners have made no secret of their desire for an assault, and the perpetuation of a forever war staves off the point at which a hugely unpopular prime minister will have to wave goodbye to power and face the corruption cases he has fought for so long.

The US has made clear its opposition to such an offensive. Even at its most frustrated, it has also made clear that it is reluctant to attach serious consequences to its demands on Mr Netanyahu’s government. In the wake of Iran’s attack, it has stepped up its support for Israel.

Yet an assault on Rafah would be a disaster for those sheltering there, and for the broader distribution of aid arriving via its crossing to Egypt. The urgent need to prevent a regional conflagration need not mean relegating Gaza to an afterthought. Far from it: the two issues are closely connected. A ceasefire and the release of hostages, along with the promised surge in aid, could help defuse regional tensions and find a path out of the dangers. The alternative is many more deaths in Gaza, and increased peril for those outside.

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Source: US Politics -


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