Threat of Third Party Intervention Could Make Israel 'Hesitant' About Ground Offensive: Expert
18:33 15.10.2023 (Updated: 18:35 15.10.2023)
Following the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel announced its preparation for a ground operation in the Gaza Strip. However, on October 15, the Israeli military reportedly postponed the operation for a few days due to weather conditions, which affected the abilities of pilots and drone operators to support ground forces.
The reasons behind the postponement of Israel's ground assault could be multifaceted, including Iran's menacing intervention, United States' negotiating efforts, and the desire to release hostages, said Dr. Imad Salamey, an associate professor of political science and international affairs at the Lebanese American University, in an interview with Sputnik.
Earlier on Sunday, Iran reportedly sent a message to Israel through the United Nations, warning that it would need to intervene if Israel carried out a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip amidst the ongoing escalation.
However, later in the day, the Iranian Permanent Mission to the United Nations told Sputnik that the Iranian armed forces will not intervene in the situation in the Gaza Strip if Israel starts a ground operation there, unless Israeli forces decide to attack Iran.
According to the expert, the announced postponement
could be attributed to Iran's warning. He noted that given the current situation, Israel must reassess and adjust its ground operation so that it takes into account possible intervention of the third parties.
"Now there is a lot of talk about the weather conditions and stuff like that. I highly doubt that. The reason being that [...] it could be a threat being made by Iran, being directly involved in the conflict. Or it could be because of the United States trying to make some kind of agreement. [All these] make Israel a bit hesitant, especially if there is a reason to believe that there is a way to release some of the hostages through negotiation," Salamey said.
At the same time, the professor emphasized that warnings from Iran or other nations will not deter Israel from carrying out the ground offensive because it is deemed "a must operation" for the country to regain confidence in its government and armed forces and to demonstrate its capability to prevent and halt groups such as Hamas.
"Israel will consider a big defeat if it doesn't [launch the operation]. So regardless of the Iranian threat I believe Israel will interfere," Salamey said, adding: "These threats from Iran caused a lot of cautions [...]. So, Israel now have to think why it is waging a ground offensive in Gaza. It will have to think about the consequences and the potential of an Iranian intervention."
He explained that Iran's response may depend on the results of the ground offensive. If the Israeli operation goes smoothly, one can expect Iran to intervene
in various ways. For instance, it could launch missiles from Syria, which is the most feasible option. Subsequently, it may engage Hezbollah through cross-border fire, potentially causing a broader regional conflict.
However, this would be a "worst-case scenario," the expert said, stressing that Iran is unlikely to take such actions.
According to Salamey, third-party intervention in the Gaza Strip entails multiple risks. If an actor steps in to assist Gaza, the US, and possibly other nations, may intervene on the side of Israel. Thus, the escalation between Israel and the Gaza Strip may lead to the wider regional confrontation "that can go as far as the Arab Gulf," he further elaborated.
On October 7, the Palestinian group Hamas initiated a massive and sudden offensive against Israel from the Gaza Strip. This led to Israel declaring a state of war the following day and conducting retaliatory missile strikes. On October 9, Israel imposed a full-fledged blockage
on the Gaza Strip, which is home to over 2 million people, resulting in a halt to the provision of essential water, food, and fuel supplies.
On Saturday, the Israeli military declared its intention to commence a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, but postponed it on Sunday for several days because of unfavorable weather conditions. As a result of the escalation, both Israel and Palestine have reported more than 1,000 deaths and thousands of injuries.