The Israel-Gaza conflict entered its fourth day with Israel declaring on Tuesday control regained over the Gaza border. Chinese analysts urged US and Western leaders to stop the long-term marginalization of the Palestine issue or fan the flames of the conflict, calling for more efforts to calm the situation in order to prevent a potential sixth war in the Middle East.
In retaliation for the Hamas militant attack on Saturday, Israeli airplanes bombarded Gaza City's downtown nonstop until early Tuesday, cutting off the Gaza Strip from food and other supplies. According to Reuters, the Israeli military activated an unprecedented 300,000 reserve soldiers and placed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, increasing concerns that it was preparing a ground invasion in response to the most daring and deadliest Hamas offensive in decades.
As of press time on Tuesday, the cumulative death toll on both sides had risen to nearly 1,600. Gaza's Health Ministry on Monday said at least 687 Palestinians had been killed and 3,726 wounded in Israeli air strikes on the blockaded enclave, Reuters reported.
Early Tuesday, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US released a joint statement in which they expressed their "steadfast and united support" to Israel and condemned the Hamas attack.
The Western leaders' acknowledgement of "the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people" was noted in the statement, but it has come under fire from netizens on social media for their double standards on the Palestine issue. Observers voiced concern that the US and certain Western leaders' biased support would worsen the conflict.
As long as Israel is seen as a member of their camp and Hamas as terrorists, the US and many European nations would want to offer Israel support in diplomacy and in rhetoric. However, if the conflict spreads, the scenario may get worse, Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times.
In an attempt to provide symbolic support to Israel and intimidate Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah group, US made the one-sided decision to send weapons and warships to Israel.
However, since the US has been reducing its commitments in the region, it will not readily get back into the conflict, but to demonstrate its role, it may provide Israel with weaponry and intelligence, Liu said.
Although several EU leaders expressed support for Israel, considering the widespread sympathy for the Palestinians in European nations, the bloc may not accept long-term one-sided support for Israel, according to the expert.
For example, divisions among EU member states and a lack of convergence from EU institutions were on display on Monday over plans to halt aid to Palestine in response to Saturday's attack on Israel by Hamas. According to European media, several countries, including Ireland, Luxembourg and Denmark - had been pushing for the EU to call for de-escalation.
Concern over escalation
The international community is concerned about how the conflict will evolve. According to Liu, in order to reassure its citizens, the Israeli government would undoubtedly exact retribution on Hamas and undertake the heaviest strike it has ever launched. But it also faces another problem - Hamas is hard to eradicate from Gaza due to its close links to the local community, and if its use of force results in significant civilian casualties and humanitarian catastrophes in Gaza, it will come under greater moral pressure.
Liu noted that the risk of a sixth Middle East war still exists if Israel is engulfed by the desire for revenge and expands the war, or if Hamas finds itself fighting a last-ditch battle, or if more countries are dragged into the war.
"It would be a more pitiful situation if the war escalates with relevant parties losing their minds," said Liu.
There was no sign of cease fire on Tuesday. Hamas is ready to fight a long war with Israel, a senior member of the militant group was cited by the Associated Press as saying on Tuesday.
Moreover, the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah fired a barrage of rockets into Israel after at least three of its members were killed during an Israeli bombardment of Southern Lebanon amid soaring tensions on Israel's northern border, according to media reports.
The situation in Gaza is being closely watched by the international community. Sun Degang, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Fudan University said that the immediate priority is to stop additional parties from engaging in the Israel-Gaza conflict and from adding fuel to the fire. However, if Israel deploys significant ground forces into Gaza, the situation may become challenging with the possibility of an alarming humanitarian disaster.
As the situation worsened, the United Nations, foreign relief organizations, and public health professionals said they were increasingly worried about humanitarian needs in Palestinian regions. Approximately 6 percent of Gaza's population, or more than 137,000 individuals, are now taking refuge in facilities administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, according to a statement made by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to reporters in New York.
China has paid high attention to the continued escalation of the Palestine-Israel conflict and urged all relevant parties to enact a cease fire. China is willing to maintain communication with all parties and make efforts toward stabilizing the Middle East, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The bloodshed and deaths in the Middle East once again bring to light the disastrous consequences of the US and Western countries' long-term marginalization of the Palestinian issue, analysts said. It also highlights that the US' strategy to promote normalization between Israel and the Arab states would be a castle in the air without resolving the Palestine issue.
Although there has been no official information from any relevant parties, there have been growing reports that a US-brokered deal to formalize diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel may be victimized in the escalation of situation.
The Palestinian issue has historically been viewed by the global community as the most important, sensitive and fundamental problem in the Middle East. But in order to achieve reconciliation between Israel and Saudi Arabia and persuade more of its friends and other moderate nations to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, the US strives to sidestep or even ignore the Palestinian issue. Its goal is to put together a unified front to attack Syria and suppress Iran, Sun said.
The US should reflect its regional strategy and advocate for long-term solutions to Israel-Palestine conflict rather than stoking tensions, said Sun.
Palestine and Israel are neighbors that cannot be moved and the two-state solution is a concluding and right solution to solving the Palestinian issue. Without an independent country of the Palestinians, the security of Israel cannot be guaranteed, Sun said.