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Israel-Hamas Conflict Expands Beyond Borders, Questions Arise on Relevance of State Apparatus

As the Israel-Hamas conflict intensifies, it raises questions about the effectiveness of traditional state structures, with international and non-state actors becoming key players in the evolving geopolitical landscape.

By Prof Sudhanshu Tripathi
New Update

Israel Hamas Conflict
Israel-Hamas Conflict | Representative image | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement

An obvious question has arisen in the minds of many whether the might of the State is still relevant today. For all practical purposes, the might of the State is defined by its coercive machinery, namely the army, police, and paramilitary forces, along with their controlling authorities such as courts and magistracies. Given the ongoing massive retaliations by Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthi fighters, and several other fighter groups like the Radwan army, Nukhba forces, and many more, using various destructive weapons like rockets, missiles, mortars, explosives, drones, and airborne interceptors, employed by hundreds of thousands of professional fighters, and possibly even more yet to be seen, one must ask: What then distinguishes the state's coercive apparatus from that possessed by terrorist groups in West Asia and possibly elsewhere in the world?

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Against this backdrop, the much-hyped APEC 2023 summit failed to resolve either the Hamas-Israel conflict or the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Not even a temporary armistice between the two sets of belligerents could be agreed upon, despite the desired intervention of both Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden during their bilateral meeting which had the world's attention. Unfortunately, with each passing day since October 7, new worrisome developments have been unfolding, causing anxiety not only in the West Asian region but all across the world, with the threat of a global catastrophe looming.

Previously, the successful destruction of an American MQ-9 Predator drone by Houthi revolutionaries in Yemen has led to a new devastating turn, raising the possibility of a violent U.S. retaliation and further escalating tensions. Additionally, the Houthis are reported to have captured an Israeli naval ship with approximately 25 crew members on board. The cumulative effect is a mounting global tension, which remains palpable today.

Considering the scale of terror attacks and counter-attacks by Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis on Israel, it is clear that there is a concerted effort to eliminate Israel from the world map. Despite Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) intensifying their offensives against Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank, a consolidated alliance has been formed under the auspices of Iran, with the involvement of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Al-Aqsa Brigade, Houthi fighters, and numerous other fringe terror groups in the region, including Syrian terror groups and the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigade, the armed wing of the PFLP. This alliance is likely to be joined by most of the Muslim states in the region if the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict expands beyond West Asia, potentially leading to a full-scale regional war or even evolving into a global conflict involving multiple nations.

Although many Muslim states like Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and others in proximity to Gaza have thus far maintained a nominal distance from Hamas, it is probable that they will soon become involved. The ferocity and scale of Israeli offensives against Hamas have already wreaked havoc in Gaza and the West Bank, leaving densely populated areas devastated, with countless casualties, including around four thousand innocent children. The Israeli attacks have reached their worst form in Gaza and the West Bank, where intense direct confrontations between the two belligerents continue, having already resulted in the destruction of Khan Yunus in Gaza and Jenin in the West Bank.

As Israel remains determined to eradicate Hamas completely, the militant organisation stands resolute in its stance on hostages, despite facing imminent threats of annihilation by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The Israel-Hamas conflict has unleashed a horrifying wave of violence, severely disrupting normal life in the region. The situation is becoming increasingly unbearable for the civilians caught in the crossfire, as they scramble to protect themselves and their loved ones while mourning the loss of their close ones.

Hamas, along with its military wings such as the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigade, Al-Aqsa Brigade, Al-Quddus Brigade, Al-Imam Fighters, and Hezbollah, has not hesitated to retaliate against the IDF from various corners, spanning from North Gaza to inside Jordan, and from North Lebanon. These groups have launched serious assaults on IDF forces and Israeli cities, resulting in a significant number of casualties. Hezbollah, in particular, is believed to possess a substantial arsenal of fighters and weapons, as evidenced by its fierce missile attacks on the IDF and targets within Israel.

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The region is witnessing a dangerous escalation of violence, with no end in sight to the Israel-Hamas conflict. The international community watches with growing concern as the situation continues to deteriorate, bringing untold suffering to the people caught in the midst of this ongoing battle.

Despite launching hundreds of massive attacks on Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank, which have involved detonating tons of explosives over the past month, the IDF has not achieved a decisive victory over Hamas. The IDF has repeatedly pledged to eliminate the entire Hamas terrorist network from Gaza and the West Bank. Unfortunately, Iran appears to be covertly collaborating with most of these terrorist groups and various regional states, aiming to unite them against Israel in the name of Muslim unity against Jews. This collaboration is seen as an attempt to prevent Israel from regaining full control over Gaza. Additionally, Iran's actions seem to be part of a strategy to encircle Israel from all directions, potentially prolonging the conflict and putting immense pressure on Tel Aviv until it reaches a breaking point.

Evidently, the terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel and the Israeli counter-attack on Hamas have indeed created an unprecedented situation, not only in and around Gaza but also in the entire West Asian region, by polarising the aforementioned two power blocs. Furthermore, the Israel-Hamas conflict appears to be heading towards a confrontation between Israel and the combined strength of almost all Muslim states in the region, given the general anti-American sentiments among them, dating back to the past, and recently exacerbated by the US's confirmed role in the killing of Iran's top military officer, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone attack on January 3, 2020. Additionally, the Crusade angle is deeply intertwined with the ongoing confrontation related to the capture of Bethlehem in the West Bank, which is the common place of origin for three different religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. This situation arouses feelings of martyrdom among the three communities, as memories of earlier crusades still linger among peace-loving people worldwide. They fear that this crisis may follow a similar course, given Hamas's extensive preparedness, possession of state-of-the-art modern gadgets and lethal armaments, and acquired capacity to evade the world's best secret agency, Mossad, and their counter-terror arrangements made thus far.    

And that may most probably spread all over the world, assuming a global catastrophic dimension with a higher possibility of nuclear weapons being used, given the vested interests of most global and major powers like the US-led NATO powers and other Western powers versus Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Turkey, and most of the Muslim states in the region. This includes the dreaded terrorist networks like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthi revolutionaries in Yemen, the Islamic State, and many more in the region, apart from Jaish-e-Mohammad and Tehreek-e-Insaf and other terror outfits from Pakistan having close connections and similar objectives and goals with the former ones.

In this highly volatile scenario, nobody knows what the next moment may hold because Israel is attacking with ever-fierce momentum to wipe out Hamas, hiding and attacking from their tunnels. The cumulative devastation is being publicly protested in America, England, and many other European countries, including Israel, who want an immediate ceasefire. On the other end, there seems to be a secret alliance between Iran and Turkey, along with the aforementioned terrorist groups and their proxy governments in Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, and a few others, to encircle Tel Aviv and ultimately wipe it off the map of the world. Although the US president has criticised the ongoing Israeli attack in Jenin, including Gaza, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, it appears to be a calculated tactic to divert global attention away from the continuing massacre at the hands of IDF and Hamas, including Hezbollah and Houthi fighters, along with many other fringe terror groups.

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With reinforcements from all major players, namely Israel, the US, Iran, Russia, and China in the Mediterranean Sea, covering the region with their naval and air forces, accompanied by the stationing of armed forces, including nuclear warships, bombers like B-2, nuclear missiles, and many more lethal weapons, along with the rising fierce attacks by the terror groups on Israel and the US, the ongoing ferocious battle may soon turn into a US-Iran conflict. Both states are proven enemies of each other, and this will inevitably lead to escalations putting global humanity on the precipice.

In the wake of the protracted Russia-Ukraine conflict, the reputation of Russia, a formidable global superpower, has taken a substantial hit. This is a matter of growing concern, as the conflict shows no signs of abating due to continuous American arms support for Kyiv and Tel Aviv. The repercussions of this sustained conflict have inevitably fueled tensions between Putin and Biden. However, what remains a regrettable reality in the realm of international politics is the pervasive influence of profit motives in arms sales. Major powers across the globe prioritise financial gains over the moral imperative to seek an immediate ceasefire and restore peace in the region. In doing so, they seem to place profits ahead of the collective well-being of humanity on a global scale.

Thus, the parallel terror-action profile of both the state and the terrorists, such as Hamas and the other terror groups, has considerably undermined the sovereign might of a state like Israel, and it appears to have shattered the very coercive power of the otherwise sovereign state apparatus. This is a significant question for contemplation by all rational minds in the world.

(Professor Sudhanshu Tripathi holds a position as a Political Science professor at MDPG College, Pratapgarh (UP). He is the author of several published books, including "India’s Foreign Policy: Dilemma over Non-Alignment 2.0" (2020) and "NAM and India" (2012), as well as being a co-author of the textbook "Rajnitik Avadharnayein" (2001). Additionally, he has contributed numerous articles and research papers to national, international, and online journals.)

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