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As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, Iran’s malign activities threaten the region

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, Iran’s malign activities threaten the region

The unprecedented Hamas terrorist attack in Israel has changed the course of the Middle East conflict. Until 7 October 2023, the Israeli government had believed it could contain the threat of Palestinian terrorism in the Gaza Strip and tolerated the existence of Hamas. After the attack, Israel vowed to eliminate the group and demilitarise the enclave. This shift significantly reduces the possibility of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and a diplomatic solution.

The security situation in the wider region has deteriorated as the Iranian regime, Hamas’s main foreign backer, continues its campaign of asymmetric warfare. Tehran, keen to maintain plausible deniability, uses various proxies to target Israel and Western interests. Lebanese Hizballah regularly attacks northern Israel. Yemen’s Houthi rebels threaten commercial shipping in the Red Sea. Pro-Iranian elements launch rockets and one-way attack drones at US military bases in the region. These attacks are designed to show solidarity with the Palestinians, harass Israel and US troops without provoking a serious response. They increase the risk of further escalation. However, direct involvement of Iran and its proxies in the Gaza conflict remains unlikely at present.

The Israel-Hamas conflict and various related issues continue to have a global impact. Maritime trade in the Red Sea is being disrupted by Houthi attacks. Societies around the world face rising anti-Semitism, including violent incidents, and Islamophobia. The conflict also shifts part of public attention away from the Russian war against Ukraine, creating additional risks for Kyiv.

IDF operating in Gaza Strip Reuters / Scanpix
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