Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gaza Under Siege

Israel has confirmed that fuel supplies to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have been reduced, and two of the three major border crossings have been closed. The latter is intended to limit the type and quantity of supplies that can enter Gaza from Israel. In effect, Israel has placed the territory under a state of limited siege in response to over a thousand rockets and mortar shells launched at Israel from Gaza in the last four months. (New York Times: Israel Reduces Fuel to Gaza, Closes Crossing).

Hamas, the de facto government in Gaza, does not recognize Israel's right to exist, and their official charter calls for the complete elimination of Israel. Efforts to negotiate a peace between Israel and Hamas have been fruitless, thus Israel's latest decisions to limit energy and supplies into the territory.

For any siege of Gaza to work, there must be some measure of cooperation from the US and NATO. To the east, Gaza is completely surrounded by Israel, however to the west it borders the Mediterranean Sea. Supplies could theoretically reach Gaza from the Med, although it's unlikely that any of the NATO countries there would allow it.

This latest action by Israel is part of the much larger dance between the US and Iran. Hamas is supported, supplied, and financed by Iran, so any pressures place on the Gaza are likewise felt in Tehran. Indeed, support for Hamas coupled with support for the insurgency in Iraq has stretched Iran pretty thin economically. The timing of this latest economic squeeze by Israel would appear to signal some measure of cooperation with Washington, coming right on the heels of additional economic sanctions against Iran having been announced by the US.

The stakes on both fronts are the same. Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel and has been mounting rocket attacks from Gaza for years. Iran also publicly seeks the destruction of Israel and is, at least according to the US and the IAEA, actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The biggest loser should Iran succeed in that effort would certainly be Israel. So cooperation between Israel and the US in the global struggle with Iran does make sense. The unanswered questions are how far Israel is willing to go in throttling the Gaza, and how Tehran plans to increase their aid to Hamas to prevent that government's collapse.

In the meantime, it's important to realize that this struggle is indeed part of the broader conflict with Iran. The more pressure Israel can put on Hamas, the more it helps our cause in the economic sparring currently taking place further east. Now more than ever we need to support Israel's efforts in the Gaza. Those efforts are certainly tied to our own efforts elsewhere in the region.

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