AROUND THE WORLD: Israel Launches Fresh Attacks On Gaza As U.S Recognises Golan Heights Claims

Israel has stepped up its campaign against citizens of the Gaza strip, allegedly hitting 100 targets in the embargoed stretch of land.

The overwhelming response came after two long range rockets fired from Gaza reached Tel Aviv and hit a house. Despite allegations that the rockets may have been accidentally fired or that the blame lies with dissident anti-Hamas salafists (whom have been routinely tortured by Hamas authorities), Israel has blamed and targeted Hamas in spite of a Hamas’ denial of rocket fire claiming it goes “against national consensus“. Similarly, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees have denied undertaking the militant action.

The hard hitting response should come as no surprise as embittered Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to improve his damaged reputation from this years corruption revelations and trial. However, he has seen himself outflanked by his newfound ultra-right reactionary government partners. The co leaders of the New Right (Hayamin Hehadash) party, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, have called for further strikes stating “Bombing an empty building and then feeling good, as if this is what is deterring Hamas, is nonsense, it does not work.” Bennett has since said that he wishes for the IDF “to open the gates of hell” against Hamas. Despite this, it seems that Netanyahu has remained the budding face of the Israeli right, with a recent poll revealing that most Israelis think the PM is too weak on Gaza, but will vote for him anyway.

Since these events, recent developments have shown yet more heightened tensions on the Gaza border. In recent border clashes, it is alleged that Gaza protesters have thrown some 500 explosive at the IDF throughout Thursday night. The factions in Gaza have also called the Palestinian masses to yet again participate in the “Great Return March”. It comes one year after the deadly events of Land Day in March. Whilst organisers have called for the event to be peaceful, the IDF’s response is likely to be as aggressive as every other time Palestinians have marched to the border. The IDF has since showcased no signs of any peaceful intent.

All this has come amid a new atmosphere of budding American support for Israeli claims in the Middle East. This week saw the United States government recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel had captured the territory after the 6 Days War and the construction of illegal settlements soon began after. The rest of the international community has long since regarded the area as being under occupation, which was showcased in the European Union member state’s unanimous rejection of Trumps proclamation.

In response to the US proclamation, locals in the Golan Heights participated in large scale demonstrations, with many holding posters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, defiantly declaring their loyalty to Damascus. Syria itself has called the move “blatant aggression”, further stating that Washington was “the main enemy” of Arabs.

State controlled Syrian Arab News Agency photos showcasing protests against Trumps announcement. Assad loyalists were joined by Druze sympathisers and SSNP members

With tensions once again building, both Netanyahu and Trump are no doubt looking to play on their nationalist electorate as both find themselves embattled with investigations. Whilst Trump has considerably less pressure than Netanyahu, whom is soon to be facing trial for corruption, he is no doubt looking to once again whip up his nationalist voting base for next years election. Much of Trumps biggest support has come from New Right Evangelicals who support Israel wholeheartedly due to their apocalyptic belief that the Jews must return to Israel as a precondition for Christ’s Second Coming. Netanyahu meanwhile has attempted to placate his far right support base despite anger at perceived lack of action simmering from settlers and neo-fascists alike. Whatever lies ahead for the two figures, the occupied peoples of Gaza and Golan are likely to feel the brunt of the consequences from the decision making processes of Netanyahu and Trump.

Sam Glasper is TPN’s Foreign Affairs Commentator and studies at Manchester Metropolitain University.

AROUND THE WORLD: Israel Bombs Syrian Capital, Damascus on Christmas Day as Turkish Invasion Looms

On the 25th of December, Israeli warplanes struck Damascus during Christmas celebrations allegedly targeting Hezbollah senior figures and strongholds in the city. It has been reported that Syrian government air defences destroyed 14 of the 16 missiles fired by the Israeli Air Force during the strikes.

The aggressive strikes come as US president Trump has announced that his administration will pull troops out of Syria. The decision comes as Trump has harked back to his anti interventionist campaign rhetoric as part of his “America First” plans. The resolution has already led to defence secretary James Mattis’ resignation as United States foreign policy has seen a seemingly remarkable change of pace compared to the last 50 years of hawkish interventionist foreign policy.

With the US withdrawal also comes a loss of support for the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) whom US forces have been assisting against the so-called Islamic State. It has thus also led to the emboldening of Erdogan’s Turkey whose military have long since wished to displace and attack the Syrian Kurds whom they see as connected to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a group who have participated in a decades long guerrilla conflict against the Turkish government.

The bombing of Damascus can be seen as a play by Israel to take a leading role in Syrian civil war as the US pulls out. The hawkish display of power is no surprise to anyone who knows Israels interventionist military history which includes the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The conflict saw Israel topple leftist pro Palestinian forces and attempt to remove Syrian influence from Lebanon. It also helped lead to the creation of Hezbollah, the very same force Israel now seeks to combat in Syria.

Hezbollah have taken a large role in the war on the side of the Assad government. Its a relationship that goes back to the Lebanese civil war where Hezbollah and Baathist backed militias fought the Israeli backed rightist Phalange for control of the nation. Hezbollah is a commanding military presence, as shown during its strategic victory against the IDF in the 2006 Lebanon war. Its intervention on behalf of Assad cannot be emphasised enough with regards to the continued survival of the Syrian Arab Socialist Baath Party. It has recently played a leading role against rebel forces near the occupied Golan Heights during the Beit Jinn offensive and spearheaded the capture of Abu Kamal from the so-called Islamic State.

The withdrawal of the US from the region and the display of Hezbollah military prowess had no doubt worried Israel. The events reminisce in the happenings of the Lebanese civil war where America similarly withdrew for the conflict, after a suicide bombing killed 241 US troops, and Hezbollah gained a decisive edge in the closing chapters of the 15 year war. Now, Hezbollah has yet again proven itself decisive as the Assad government asserts itself day after day.

Israel meanwhile has been in somewhat of a crisis over the last few months. Its reputation has once again been tainted after a series of shootings of Palestinians during Gaza border protests earlier this year. A corruption scandal has emerged against Israel’s long running rightist PM Benjamin Netanyahu and a tactical victory by Gazan armed factions last month has directly led to the collapse of the Likud led right wing governing coalition. With fresh elections around the corner, the Netanyahu administration has no doubt attempted to claw back some legitimacy with these recent strikes on the Syrian capital.

The situation in Syria remains unstable. With the US withdrawal, a Turkish invasion against YPG militants in the north now looms and a deal seems to be on the horizon between Kurdish and Baathist forces. A more determined Israeli intervention into the conflict will unquestionably have untold consequences for the future of the region.