The echoes of the Gaza War Resonate Throughout the Middle East

The echoes of the Gaza War Resonate Throughout the Middle East

As the war in Gaza rages on, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalates, causing grave harm to civilians and threatening Middle Eastern stability. Crisis Group experts provide a 360-degree assessment of how the region’s capitals view the crisis and their own interests in it.


The 7 October Hamas raid on Israeli settlements encircling the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip killed 1,400 Israelis and took over 200 captives (the majority of whom are still held hostage), prompting a furious response from the Israeli military. Israel’s harsh reprisal has claimed thousands of lives since then.

If Israel continues to pursue its claimed goal of dismantling Hamas’ military capability, the campaign will kill thousands more lives. Hundreds of thousands of people have been uprooted, many without a place to call home as Israel razes much of northern and central Gaza. However, while the violence has been felt most acutely in Gaza and Israel, it has consequences throughout the region, as Crisis Group demonstrates in the following poll.




Since Israel began bombing Gaza following the Hamas attacks on 7 October, Egyptian officials have been concerned that Palestinians fleeing the conflict or being expelled by Israel would flood into the Sinai Peninsula through the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border. Fears of mass Palestinian displacement have been fueled, among other things, by Israel’s imposition of what Defence Minister Yoav Gallant described as a “total blockade” barring the import of food, electricity, and fuel into Gaza; intimations by current and former Israeli officials that they wish to kick out the population; and the Israeli authorities’ 21 October warning to the 1.1 million Palestinians in northern Gaza to relocate to the strip’s southern part.


Cairo’s position is no likely influenced by the mounting civilian death toll as the ground invasion continues, as well as alleged European and American pressure to allow Rafah to Palestinians seeking to cross.


Egypt has made it clear to its regional and international partners that it does not wish to be the landing point for Gaza refugees, for both moral and pragmatic grounds. Cairo commemorates the 1948 conflict that followed Israel’s independence, when many current Gaza inhabitants and their forefathers fled or were forced to leave villages in what is now Israel.


When the conflict ended, Israel did not allow the Palestinians who had fled to return to their homes, and Cairo thinks that this pattern will all too easily repeat itself once the current fighting has subsided. Many people already living in Gaza would become refugees for the second or third time, undermining Palestinian ambitions for statehood and pushing the burden of caring for the displaced to Egypt. President Abdelfattah al-Sisi remarked on October 21 that “liquidating the Palestinian cause without a just solution is beyond the realm of possibility.” It will never happen at the price of Egypt. Certainly not.” According to this stance, Cairo has the support of other Arab capitals, Palestinian terrorist groups, and the Egyptian and Arab public.


Concerns about security in Sinai, where the government has been fighting Islamist cells, also support Cairo’s approach. Jihadist activity has slowed in recent months. It could restart if a sufficient number of people arrive to the peninsula from Gaza, for example, if members of Palestinian jihadist groups establish logistical, intellectual, and operational linkages with confreres based in Sinai.

Furthermore, separating Palestinian extremists from the influx of fresh refugees would be difficult, if not impossible. These extremists may attempt to launch assaults on Israeli targets from Egyptian land, provoking Israel’s reprisal and upsetting its relations with Egypt. The humanitarian repercussions could be severe as well. Because of the counter-insurgency campaign, much of northern Sinai’s population has been displaced for years. An influx of Palestinians could put a burden on local infrastructure and resources. If a big number of Palestinians arrive, Egypt will have severe absorption issues, perhaps destabilising the entire country. To summarise, Egypt does not want to become embroiled in Israel’s war with the Palestinians.

To decrease the likelihood of mass exodus from Gaza, Egypt has urged for humanitarian aid to be delivered to the territory and has expressed strong opposition to an Israeli ground assault. However, as Egypt prepared to send rescue convoys into Gaza from al-Arish, a northern Sinai city, Israel bombarded areas near the Rafah border gate four times between 9 and 16 October, blocking its use. During the ensuing standoff, Egyptian officials asked the US to arbitrate, and Israel has allowed minimal amounts of food, water, and medical supplies over the crossing into Gaza since October 21.

Nonetheless, Israel has continued to obstruct gasoline supply, fearful of diversion to Hamas’s military branch. According to local officials and international non-governmental organisations in Gaza, by October 31, this approach had brought hospitals and other humanitarian operations to the brink of collapse. The White House reported that day that 66 assistance trucks had crossed in the previous 24 hours, but that the cargo did not come close to fulfilling the huge need in the strip. Egypt, along with Qatar, has been involved in discussions for the release of Israelis and others held captive by Hamas on October 7.

While Egypt appears to have rejected any suggestion of accepting Palestinian refugees in exchange for external aid and debt forgiveness – a prospect reportedly floated by US and European officials – the turmoil will continue to present Cairo with opportunities to extract concessions from its creditors and ease its considerable economic difficulties. Concerned about the conflict’s destabilising effects, which could increase irregular migration from Egypt to Europe, the European Union is considering a partnership agreement with Egypt focused on migration and economic cooperation, similar to a similar agreement reached with Tunisia in July, the core of which would be a significant financial assistance package. Concerned about the war’s influence on Egypt’s stability, Gulf Arab states are allegedly considering raising their deposits in the Egyptian central bank to support the country’s ailing economy, despite their previous unwillingness to continue funding Cairo. These financial injections could provide Egypt with much-needed economic respite, boosting its domestic outlook in the short term.




Jordanians have been upset by Israel’s assault on Gaza in response to Hamas’s 7 October strike, as well as the accompanying humanitarian disaster. Speculation that Israel intends to expel Gaza’s Palestinian inhabitants has reignited decades-old suspicions that Israel intends to expel West Bank Palestinians into Jordan. Jordanians have taken to the streets on a regular basis around the country. The scale of the protests in front of the US and Israeli embassies in Amman and around the city centre is unprecedented. For many Jordanians, the current crisis offers their first opportunity to participate in a public protest. Concerned about turmoil both at home and abroad, King Abdullah II warned that “the entire region is on the verge of collapsing.”  Jordanian pundits, particularly those of Palestinian ancestry, are outraged that the West has given Israel a blank cheque in Gaza, while the Palestinian people are habitually dehumanised in Israeli and Western media. In an interview with CNN on October 24, Queen Rania, who is of Palestinian descent, chastised Western countries for their “glaring double standards,” saying that Western journalists who demand that anyone representing Palestinian points of view first condemn Hamas’s attack “have their humanity cross-examined and present their moral credentials.” The fact that she conveyed this message on such a high-profile platform implies that the monarchy is concerned about the country’s Palestinian-origin people, the majority of whom are refugees from the 1948 or 1967 wars. (Jordan is the only Arab country that has granted Palestinian refugees citizenship.)

Jordan underlined its determination to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


Indeed, Jordan’s government has had to deal with some backlash from this constituency. On the second day of the war, reports surfaced that the Jordanian government was permitting the US to transport weapons to Israel via Jordan. The government disputed the claim immediately, emphasising its opposition to Israel’s activities in Gaza. It has also reaffirmed its commitment to resuming an Israeli-Palestinian peace process that would result in a two-state solution that would secure Palestinian rights and freedoms.

The belief that Israel may wish to evict Palestinians from Gaza and possibly even the West Bank influences Jordan’s political elite. Panellists at the Social and Political Institute in Amman, including former Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher, expressed their belief that Israel’s long-term plan is to use its military campaign to force the Palestinian population from Gaza into Sinai and then kick Palestinians out of the West Bank. They warned that the uncritical backing that Western countries are currently providing Israel could have repercussions if it continues. They are concerned that it will inspire Israel’s right wing, which has long advocated for the “transfer” of all Palestinians to Jordan, to target Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, pushing them out as well and making Jordan the de facto Palestinian homeland.


Fears are fueled in large part by not only the history of the conflict, but also current pronouncements by Israeli politicians. At least one Israeli Knesset member has explicitly called for a “second Nakba.” (Arabs typically use the term nakba, which means “catastrophe,” to refer to the exodus of 750,000 Palestinians from what became Israel in 1948.) Israeli settlers have circulated pamphlets in the West Bank threatening Palestinians with forcible displacement if they do not transfer to Jordan. The Israeli Knesset is due to vote on a proposal by far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to enable the use of live fire in suppressing Palestinian citizens of Israel’s demonstrations.

Even if it is not the most likely near-term scenario, the forcible displacement of more Palestinians from the West Bank is a phantom that many Jordanians are deeply concerned about due to the devastating consequences. Already, the administration is considering reconsidering its peace accord with Israel due to the high level of popular opposition. Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel on November 1, stating the diplomat would return only when Israel ended its attack on Gaza. Mass migration into Jordan would be economically disastrous, and Jordan becoming the de facto Palestinian state would almost surely upset the political order, which has always favoured Jordanians of non-Palestinian background.

Jordan has an extra risk as the custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites; if the war in Gaza causes an explosion in Jerusalem and the West Bank, it could imperil Amman’s ability to oversee these sites and incite public outrage. Jordan has regularly expressed concern about Israeli abuses of the historical status quo at these sites, including as Israel’s permission for Jews to pray on the plaza atop the al-Aqsa mosque-Temple Mount compound. However, for the time being, the situation at these important sites remains calm, and Amman has not publicly referenced it since the events of October 7.






Given Israel’s history of hostility towards the powerful Shiite militia-cum-party Hizbollah, Lebanon is the country most likely to be drawn into a full-fledged conflict by the escalating Gaza situation. The near-constant exchanges of fire in recent weeks have further added to this perception. True, all of Lebanon’s major political parties have stated their opposition to such a conflict. Even in less tense periods, Hizbollah has conducted its own foreign policy, including decisions about when and how to deploy its huge arsenal, without being subjected to internal political scrutiny. Thus, while Hizbollah has stated that it would prefer to avoid a wider conflict, no combination of Lebanese actors can prevent it from engaging in border clashes with Israel, despite the fact that such hostilities place the country in constant danger of being drawn into punishing conflict with its powerful southern neighbour. Hizbollah’s assurances that it will not go to war with Israel are at odds with customary party discourse. The party, along with Hamas, considers itself a member of the “axis of resistance,” an alliance of state and non-state forces opposed to Israel and the United States that also includes Iran, Syria, Yemen’s Houthis, and a number of terrorist groups operating in Iraq and Syria. Hizbollah has highlighted strong collaboration among the alliance’s components as a strategic goal in recent years, and party officials have repeatedly warned Israel – long before the present crisis – that it may face a multi-front war. Such warnings are an important part of Hizbollah’s deterrence strategy.

In a speech on 3 November, Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah reiterated similar concerns, while the party’s foreign supporter Iran added dire warnings to Israel not to escalate. Israel and the United States, for their parts, delivered strongly worded responses, and the United States dispatched significant military assets to the eastern Mediterranean Sea to dissuade Hizbollah and, by implication, Iran. To keep the situation from escalating further, Washington is said to have secretly attempted to persuade Israel not to punish Hizbollah for assaults carried out by Palestinian militants stationed in Lebanon.

Still, it is unclear if Hizbollah will be pushed towards prudence or action. Its support for its ally Hamas in rounds of warfare with Israel, such as in April 2021, has been restricted since 2006, when it waged a tremendously damaging war with Israel. It has generally provided rhetorical support, as well as apparently strategic guidance and intelligence sharing, without physically participating in Israeli operations from Lebanese soil. Nonetheless, given Hamas’s real danger and the Palestinian struggle’s centrality to its ideological outlook, Hizbollah may feel obligated to come to its partner’s aid in the current battle. Nasrallah cautioned in his speech that Hizbollah could escalate based on the scope of Israel’s attack in Gaza and/or civilian casualties in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, border skirmishes pose their own set of dangers. On the second day of the war, Hizbollah launched an unjustified attack in the contested Shebaa Farms area, which Israeli forces hold and where Israel and Hizbollah have previously traded fire. Cross-border incursions by Palestinian factions prompted Israeli fire, killing Hizbollah militants, kicking off an escalatory dynamic that has been progressively building up since. Until October 28, action was limited to a 5km-wide area of territory along both sides of the border, around the range of Hizbollah’s guided anti-tank weaponry. Because most people on both sides fled or were evacuated, all reported casualties appear to have been combatants thus far. Nasrallah stated 57 casualties in his address on November 3 (Israel claims 70). Hizbollah claims to have killed or injured 120 Israeli soldiers; Israel maintains six soldiers and one civilian were killed. In the final days of October, both Hizbollah and Israel launched strikes up to 15 km into enemy territory, increasing the possibility of civilian losses and, with them, the risk of escalation.

According to a Hizbollah spokeswoman, the group employs these strategies to achieve a number of interconnected goals. Tying down Israel’s military in the north and exploiting the possibility of a new front in the war to make Israel reconsider how much it escalates in Gaza are at the top of the list. Hizbollah also wants to keep Washington focused on the possibility of conflict expansion and the implication that the US could be lured into a years-long struggle in the Middle East, allowing Russia and China to expand their influence in the area at the expense of the US.

Other Lebanese political forces are less important, partly because they are weaker than ever in comparison to Hizbollah. Lebanon now has a caretaker administration whose legitimacy is being contested. Najib Mikati, a top assistant to the prime minister, stated that the premier’s best bet is to try to bring the nation’s interest in avoiding a wider conflict – especially amid a severe economic crisis – to the forefront of Hizbollah’s calculations. “The decision is clearly not in the hands of the government,” the adviser stated. A politician affiliated with a Hizbollah ally claimed that his party has expressed worries about further military escalation to Hizbollah’s political representatives; he also admitted that these counterparts act independently of Hizbollah’s military leadership.

Hizbollah’s leaders also appear immune to anti-war sentiment among Lebanon’s Shiites, who would suffer the brunt of any war with Israel, though they would almost surely fall in line if the party decided to pursue such a battle. Shias are concentrated in Lebanon’s south, as well as in Beirut’s southern suburbs and sections of the Beqaa Valley. In the past, Israel has targeted these sites, most notably during the 2006 conflict, claiming to be targeting Hizbollah assets. Nonetheless, an analyst close to Hizbollah expressed optimism that party members do not fear a large-scale confrontation, and that stories of horrors in Gaza may even drive party leaders to participate more strongly.


If conflict breaks out, Hizbollah expects that acting in the name of protecting the Palestinian cause will strengthen its position among Lebanon’s Sunnis. However, it may struggle in this area. While several Sunni militant groups in Lebanon have already expressed their willingness to fight alongside the group, many others recall the brutal Shiite-Sunni street fighting of May 2008, started by discussion of disarming Hizbollah, which stained the Shiite party in their eyes.





In the early aftermath of the 7 October attacks, Ankara engaged in intensive diplomacy to encourage both sides to de-escalate and avoid a larger conflict. It urged both sides to exhibit restraint as Israeli bombing turned swathes of Gaza to rubble and Hamas continued to launch missiles into Israel. Turkish authorities also stated that they were willing to negotiate between the parties in the interest of de-escalation and to work towards a two-state solution based on the 1967 boundaries – potentially with Ankara and other outside actors acting as guarantors. The Turkish government reportedly urged key Hamas leaders, including chairman Ismail Haniyeh, to leave the country, but Ankara denied this, presumably to avoid disapproval from pro-Hamas domestic populations.

As Israel’s military campaign has escalated, Turkey has become increasingly vocal in its criticism. Turkish officials, reflecting broad popular opinion, regard the campaign as excessively disproportionate and outside the parameters of a legitimate response to the 7 October assaults. “[Israel’s] attacks on Gaza have long gone beyond the bounds of self-defense and have devolved into open cruelty, massacre, and barbarism,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan declared on October 26. He also defended Hamas fighters for “attempting to protect their territory.” Turkish officials are concerned that Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza may worsen the suffering of innocent civilians. They emphasise the importance of humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza, and they have raised it in Turkey’s diplomatic involvement with the parties. Not surprise, Ankara vehemently criticised Israel’s 30 October raid on the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital in Gaza, an attack that particularly irritated Turkish authorities because the facility’s coordinates had long been disclosed with Israeli authorities. Already, the battle has clouded chances for mending Turkish-Israeli relations, which were entirely repaired a year ago after a tumultuous decade. Much of the unrest stemmed from the Palestinian situation in Gaza. Ankara severed ties with Israel in mid-2010, following an Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara, a ship in a Turkish civilian flotilla transporting humanitarian aid to the coastal strip. In the incident, Israeli forces killed ten Turkish crew members. It took six years for Israel and Turkey to mend their ties, only for them to be severed again in 2018. After Israeli soldiers killed 60 Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border in May of that year, Ankara cut relations and expelled the Israeli ambassador. In 2021 and 2022, Turkey resumed full diplomatic connections with Israel as part of its shift to a more pragmatic foreign policy and an attempt to break out of its isolation in the eastern Mediterranean. Among other things, the two countries were discussing the construction of a gas pipeline that would travel from Israel to Turkey and then to Europe. However, the future of that endeavour is becoming increasingly dubious. On October 28, Israel recalled its diplomats from Turkey, citing what Foreign Minister Eli Cohen described as “grave statements” critical of Israel’s behaviour in the battle.

The Gaza battle further complicates Ankara’s efforts to normalise relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Relations were strained in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab popular uprisings, when Ankara backed forces linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, these states’ arch-enemy. Some pro-government analysts have suggested that the war could increase Israel’s regional isolation, allowing Ankara to strengthen connections with these countries.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s stance towards Hamas complicates matters. Ankara, unlike the United States, certain other Western countries, and Israel, has never recognised the group as a terrorist organisation. Indeed, Ankara has spent years (unsuccessfully) attempting to turn Hamas from a “armed resistance” into a prospective partner in a two-state solution scenario, primarily by bolstering its political branch. Members of that faction have sought safety in Turkish cities. Ankara has long been chastised by Israel for its stance, and during the two countries’ most recent normalisation process, Ankara reportedly took steps to limit some of Hamas’s capacity for manoeuvre in Türkiye. As a result, several Hamas members, including Haniyeh, the aforementioned commander of the movement’s political arm, are said to have fled to Qatar. The amount of Turkey’s influence over Hamas’ political component is unclear today, although it has undoubtedly lessened in recent years as the group’s Iran-backed military branch asserted its control, over which Ankara has no influence.


Ankara’s links to Hamas’ political wing could be important in the future. Nonetheless, this background, combined with Erdoan’s move to pro-Palestinian language that is at times blatantly pro-Hamas, may limit Ankara’s chances of acting as a mediator in the current situation. The deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations also limits Ankara’s ability to operate as an honest broker. Instead, Qatar, Turkey’s main Gulf partner, has been at the forefront of attempts to secure captive release. Nonetheless, Ankara’s links to Hamas’ political wing may be important in the future.

The battle in Gaza also complicates Turkey’s relations with the United States and the European Union, which had begun to improve only a few months ago but will now face increased hardship as long as the conflict continues. Turkey and Western countries have differing views on Hamas and how to respond to Israel’s military actions. Even in the days following Hamas’s strikes, when Turkish officials were attempting to offer a balanced perspective on the crisis, Erdoan and others chastised the US and the EU for allowing Israel to deal with Hamas as it saw fit. Erdogan responded angrily when the United States sent two aircraft carriers to the eastern Mediterranean, questioning their motives. The attack on Gaza’s Al-Ahli hospital on October 17 sparked significant pro-Palestinian rallies in Turkey, including outside NATO’s Kürecik radar installation in Malatya, in the country’s east, as demonstrators accused Israel of carrying out the strike. As a precautionary step, the United States closed its consulate in Adana, Turkey’s southernmost city.

For as long as the crisis persists, Turkey’s leaders will be pulled in at least three directions: towards favouring the public’s strong affinity for the Palestinian cause; towards the state’s Western alliances; or towards Ankara’s commitment to an activist foreign policy that would normally see it seeking a prominent role in attempting to resolve the conflict.




Despite its historical support for Hamas and subsequent plaudits for the operation, Iran has moved to distance itself from charges that it played a direct involvement in the 7 October Hamas strikes. It has now issued numerous warnings about the regional repercussions of an escalated Israeli campaign in Gaza. “The entire Islamic world is obligated to support the Palestinians, and God willing, it will support them,” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei vowed on October 10. “But this action was carried out by the Palestinians themselves” .

The turmoil presents chances for Tehran. It is clearly happy that some Arab countries that had considered normalising relations with Israel, its main Middle Eastern rival, are now harshly criticising Israeli actions. It has emphasised that Hamas’s 7 October attack exposed Israel’s vulnerability, and it has used every opportunity to condemn what it claims is US complicity in igniting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, attempting to amplify the reputational damage Washington is already suffering in the region.

Iran-backed militants have increased their attacks on Israel and US forces in the region. However, there are significant risks, such as Iran’s predilection for brinkmanship backfiring on it. Iran-backed organisations have increased attacks on Israel and US forces in the region, with more than a dozen incidents in Syria and Iraq since mid-October breaking what had been a pause in hostilities between Washington and Tehran. That calm is commonly assumed to be the result of informal de-escalation agreements between the two antagonists.


Tehran, perhaps paradoxically, may interpret these attacks, as well as statements from Iranian political and military officials threatening more escalation if Israel stays on its current trajectory, as an attempt to minimise conflict risk. In other words, Iran and its allies may be attempting to dissuade Israel and its allies from conducting a bigger campaign in Gaza or Lebanon, which could attract other regional actors and eventually embroil Iran to Israel’s detriment. This has always been the premise of Iran’s “forward defence” policy, which attempts to exploit several points of vulnerability for the US and its Middle Eastern partners in order to retaliate if and when it is attacked. However, the United States and its allies are warning the “axis of resistance” of the dangers of opening multiple fronts, meaning that “axis” actions would be met with overwhelming US and/or Israeli firepower. The Biden administration has emphasised this message by moving military assets to the Middle East and conducting retaliatory airstrikes in eastern Syria – while making plain that more is on the way if armed groups continue to target US personnel.

In this context, an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza places Tehran in a difficult position: if it and Hizbollah refrain from helping to prevent Hamas from being annihilated, it will lose credibility with its other local allies for appearing to blink in the face of its foes. However, if it pushes Hizbollah or other regional partners to intervene more forcefully than they already have, Israel, backed or directly assisted by the US, may be compelled to considerably impair Hizbollah’s capabilities. Iran risks losing face in the first scenario. In the second, it risks losing a highly valued right hand in Syria and Lebanon, one whose ability to strike US and Israeli assets helps shield Tehran from potential action against its nuclear programme, which is now operating at alarmingly advanced levels due to the failure of diplomatic efforts to contain it.

Iran may attempt to square this circle by encouraging its allies to expand their attacks on Israel and the United States in a controlled manner. However, this method has limitations. As previously stated, the United States has stated that it will retaliate for attacks on its forces, and there is little doubt that Israel will do the same, raising the possibilities of escalation, particularly in the event of a blunder or error.

For nearly four decades, Iran’s forward-defence doctrine has assisted it in deterring foreign adversaries by projecting force through regional allies and partners. The Gaza crisis is putting that approach to the test in new ways, threatening to draw Tehran directly into the entanglements it has wanted to avoid.





The 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas, as well as the ongoing battle, have prompted significant Iran-aligned armed organisations to end a nearly year-long unilateral truce with US forces in Iraq and Syria. These parties, which are part of the aforementioned “axis of resistance,” began observing this truce two months before Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s government took control in Baghdad in November 2022. Their members serve in both the legislature and the cabinet. However, on October 8, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Harakat al-Nujaba, Kataib Hezbollah, and the Badr Organisation, all members of this cluster, pledged to attack US assets throughout the region if the US intervened directly in the war.

Over the last two weeks, Iraqi groups dubbed the Islamic Resistance (Muqawama Islamiya) have claimed drone and rocket attacks on US bases in Iraq, including Ain al-Asad in Anbar and Harir in Erbil, as well as al-Tanf just across the Syrian border and al-Shadadi in north-eastern Syria. So far, no fatalities have been reported, and it appears that the groups are targeting the bases’ surroundings rather than the actual facilities in order to reduce the possibility of U.S. soldiers getting injured and to limit the risk of escalation. To date, the United States has only retaliated against terrorist groups’ locations in Syria, most likely due to the risk of escalation, which might jeopardise the US presence in Iraq. This reasoning was also evident during the truce year, when infrequent attacks and counter-attacks remained within Syria. Meanwhile, the terrorist organisations have so far honoured their commitment not to target diplomatic missions. Nonetheless, the US has evacuated non-essential workers from its embassy in Baghdad and decreased employment at its consulate in Erbil. It has repeatedly told the authorities that the attacks must stop.


Sudan’s administration, which has worked to repair ties with the US during the last year, is in a dangerous position. Because the government relies heavily on political support from Iran-linked parties, the United States and other Western countries initially perceived Sudani to be more pro-Tehran than his predecessor, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who was more pro-Western. Sudani has worked tirelessly to address these challenges. However, the Gaza situation threatens to undo some of his gains. Elite and popular opinion strongly support the Palestinians, and several political groupings have expressed severe dissatisfaction with Israel’s Western allies. For example, the Sadrist movement, Iraq’s largest Shiite party outside of the government and parliament, has urged lawmakers to pass legislation demanding the withdrawal of the approximately 2,000 US troops who remain in the country (ostensibly on a counter-ISIS mission). The government and its supporters have stated unequivocally that no such motion would be introduced, although they have been outspoken in their support for the Palestinian cause. Sudani’s address at the Arab summit in Cairo on October 21 was one of the most forceful in condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Sudani will most likely continue to walk a tightrope, with his priority being to maintain good relations with the US to the greatest extent feasible while also expressing strong support for the Palestinians and striving to assist with practical necessities such as humanitarian supplies. It will be a huge job, but one way his government might continue is to act as an intermediary, building on its work in the Gulf in recent years as a go-between for Iran and Saudi Arabia, while also strengthening ties with Egypt and Jordan. It can also act as a bridge between Arab countries and Iran. It has the potential to do the same for others. For example, the United States has sent communications to Tehran via Baghdad.


Sudani may be unable to exert authority over Islamic Resistance factions if Hizbollah responds to an Israeli ground invasion in Gaza by starting a new front on Israel’s border with Lebanon. In such a scenario, Iraqi organisations would most certainly intensify their attacks on US assets in Iraq and Syria. Specialised groups may also fly to Lebanon to provide logistical support to Hizbollah. Nonetheless, despite their strong rhetoric, Iraqi armed organisations do not appear to be inclined to expand their involvement in a way that would risk their governing power or bring U.S. or Israeli reprisal in Iraq (or Syria) -resulting in an escalation that neither party wants. The Islamic Resistance claimed two strikes on Israeli targets on November 2 and 3. However, no such attacks have been proven, thus this could be a signal of intent.





The most recent Gaza crisis has focused attention on a group in Yemen, at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Another part of the Iran-led “axis of resistance” is the Houthi rebel organisation (also known as Ansar Allah), which drove the internationally recognised government out of the capital Sanaa in 2014. The movement’s head, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, and other key members have frequently stated their willingness for armed action if the US intervenes militarily on Israel’s side.

The rekindling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has given the Houthis an opportunity to emphasise three key items on their political agenda. The first is their dedication to the cause of Palestine. Given Yemen’s enormous sympathy for Palestinians, the movement sees taking the lead in defending that cause as a means of broadening its popular support. The second argument is that the Houthis are becoming more closely tied to their “axis of resistance” counterparts, with recent comments from the movement indicating full coordination in military actions. The Houthis are promoting themselves as a player outside their immediate geographical area for the first time as they brag about their burgeoning ties. They appear to want to be recognised as more than just a beneficiary of help from other axis members, but as an active supporter of their regional initiatives. The Houthis and their allies will no doubt hope that by beefing up their network in this way, they would be able to better communicate to Israel and the United States the risks of escalation in Gaza and elsewhere in the area.

The third thing the Houthis are emphasising to both domestic and international audiences is their expanding military power. They claim that during their struggle with the US-backed Saudi-led coalition since 2015, they have improved their capabilities to the point where they can attack Israeli and US installations in the Middle East. To be sure, the efficacy of the Houthis’ long-range missiles is unknown. So far, Houthi attempts on Israel have either failed or been prevented, including a missile intercepted by the USS Carney over the Red Sea on October 19 and an Israeli projectile shot down on October 31. A drone attack near the Israeli-Egyptian border also failed on October 27. Israel blamed the attempt on the Houthis, and Egypt said the drone originated in the southern Red Sea region, which is consistent with Israel’s accusation. In considering future strikes, the Houthis will almost certainly weigh the risk that any further escalation will jeopardise their advantageous position within Yemen, especially in light of the shaky informal truce and negotiations with Saudi Arabia about a long-term ceasefire, which will almost certainly fail if the Houthis become involved in a larger war in the region.



Arab Gulf States



The Gulf Cooperation Council’s six members (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain) are divided on the ongoing Gaza war, as they are on many other matters.


The initial reactions to the commencement of hostilities closely matched previous positions. The UAE, which normalised relations with Israel in the 2020 Abraham Accords, sided with Israel, condemning Hamas for killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians as a “serious and grave escalation.” In contrast, Qatar, which maintains secret communications with Israel but has avoided formal ties, blamed Israel for the increase in violence and appealed for restraint. According to reports, Doha was also enraged at Hamas for carrying out the strike. Qatar’s ruling family has long backed Hamas’ political wing, which has an office in the capital. Saudi Arabia, which was playing with the concept of normalisation before to 7 October and was negotiating conditions with the US (which is to be included in any accord), walked a line between the two sides. It issued a statement asking both parties to de-escalate and safeguard civilians, but also reiterating its earlier concerns that the situation could deteriorate owing to the ongoing occupation. It also foresaw disastrous outcomes if Israel launched an all-out ground invasion of Gaza.

However, three weeks into the Gaza conflict, the Gulf Arab states’ stances have shifted.


The UAE has shifted its focus away from Hamas and towards Israel’s Gaza campaign. The UAE has shifted its focus away from Hamas and towards Israel’s Gaza campaign. It has used its seat on the UN Security Council to condemn Israel’s use of disproportionate force, while cancelling numerous events at home to demonstrate support for the Palestinian cause. It is also raising donations for humanitarian help.

However, three weeks into the Gaza conflict, the Gulf Arab states’ stances have shifted.


The UAE has shifted its focus away from Hamas and towards Israel’s Gaza campaign. The UAE has shifted its focus away from Hamas and towards Israel’s Gaza campaign. It has used its seat on the UN Security Council to condemn Israel’s use of disproportionate force, while cancelling numerous events at home to demonstrate support for the Palestinian cause. It is also raising donations for humanitarian help.

Qatar has operated as a go-between, trading through its channels with both Israel and Hamas. It secured the release of four hostages and brokered an agreement between Israel, Hamas, and Egypt (in collaboration with the US) to facilitate the evacuation of foreign passport holders and Palestinians in critical medical condition from Gaza. Doha’s role has been lauded by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as well as Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi. The emirate has also been under fire from staunch Israel supporters in the United States Congress, who accuse it of harbouring and sponsoring terrorists. Members of Congress continue to call on Qatar to close the Hamas office and remove its officials. It has stated that it has no plans to do so.


Saudi Arabia has maintained a low profile, continuing to hold economic meetings as usual rather than cancelling them in sympathy with the Palestinians. At the same time, Riyadh is concerned about internal ramifications from the war, given the kingdom’s and the Arab world’s outrage over Israel’s destructive campaign. While Saudi citizens have not flocked to the streets in favour of Palestinians as have Arabs elsewhere in the region, many may be keeping at home because of fear of government retaliation. Nonetheless, the public’s outrage is visible in ways that Riyadh cannot ignore.


Despite continued US pressure, the monarchy appears to have put normalisation discussions with Israel on hold, at least until the dust settles. According to the White House, Saudi Arabia has informed the US that the normalisation talks will restart once the war is over. If talks resume, addressing the Palestinian issue – which was previously on Riyadh’s wish list for the negotiations – will undoubtedly rise to the top of the list of subjects to be addressed.

Riyadh may be able to avoid domestic criticism by framing normalisation as a means of assisting the Palestinian cause. However, it is unclear whether the monarchy has a clear vision of what a satisfactory solution to the Israel-Palestine problem may look like. Even in the absence of such a vision, Riyadh appears to be pushing hard for the reopening of the peace process, probably without Hamas (whom it has scolded indirectly, but not directly, at least not in public), but with the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah.

Except for Qatar, all of the Gulf Arab states are basically spectators in an unfolding spectacle. They are profoundly concerned about the possibility of regional destabilisation, if not a Middle East war, but they are restricting their efforts to quiet efforts to persuade the Biden administration of the importance of reining in Israel as it continues its offensive in Gaza.





Despite protests from pro-Palestinian civil society groups, Morocco has progressively increased its relationship with Israel since the two countries established diplomatic ties in December 2020.


The monarch has led the process of normalisation with Israel, in accordance with the 2011 constitution, which states that he determines the country’s foreign policy priorities and orientation, with parliament serving only as a ratifying body at his discretion. Morocco has accelerated its military cooperation with Israel by signing an agreement on arms sales and intelligence sharing. Israel has sold it Barak MX missile defence systems, the Skylock Dome anti-drone system, and Heron drones. Rabat has also fostered the myth that the two countries face a single adversary, accusing the Polisario Front, the Western Sahara independence movement, of coordinating with Hizbollah in Lebanon, which it labels an Iranian proxy like Israel. Rabat concluded the improvement of the two countries’ diplomatic connections in July, following Israel’s official acknowledgment of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, with the first-ever exchange of ambassadors. Nonetheless, the Moroccan Support Front for Palestine, Morocco’s major pro-Palestine civil society movement, and others have continued to hold protests decrying normalisation.


In the early wake of the Hamas attack, Morocco took a cautiously balanced stance in order to avoid antagonising either Israel or the Palestinians. In a statement issued on October 7, the Moroccan foreign ministry criticised both sides’ attacks on civilians and called for a de-escalation. Rabat presided over an extraordinary Arab League gathering on October 11 to rally support for this position. A majority of Arab states signed on to the resultant resolution, which reiterated the two aspects mentioned above while underlining the importance of restarting the peace process. Only Algeria, Libya, Iraq, and Syria expressed reservations about the peace process language, with Algeria concerned that it appeared to equate “the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” with “Zionist entity [Israel] practises that violate international legitimacy charters and resolutions.”

However, rapidly deteriorating conditions in the Gaza Strip prompted Moroccan civil society organisations to take to the streets to express sympathy with Palestinians and pressure the government to abandon its diplomatic balancing act in favour of a stronger pro-Palestinian position. The Moroccan Support Front for Palestine held a major demonstration in Rabat on October 15, with an estimated 300,000 people asking for an end to Israel’s war assault and the closing of the Israeli consulate. Since then, virtually daily pro-Palestinian rallies have taken place across the nation, bringing together Moroccans from all political stripes, including Islamists and left-wing activists. As a precaution, Israel withdrew its embassy in Rabat on October 18.

So far, the authorities have permitted this mobilisation while disregarding pleas to cease normalisation with Israel. The king retains sole authority over major foreign policy decisions, and normalisation with Israel is a strategic move that strengthens Morocco’s diplomatic position on the Western Sahara crisis, which remains the government’s primary priority. It also strengthens Moroccan national security, according to the monarchy, by providing Rabat with an opportunity to improve its military capabilities in relation to the Polisario Front and its principal backer, Algeria. However, a worsening of the humanitarian situation in Gaza or a regional escalation might exacerbate tensions in Morocco by highlighting the widening gap between popular support for Palestinians and Rabat’s foreign policy ambitions. While a large mobilisation could force the monarchy to suspend or freeze open diplomatic interaction with Israel, the king is unlikely to agree to revisit a normalisation deal that he continues to believe is in the best interests of the country.





The current situation in Tunisia has reawakened considerable anti-Israel sentiment and greatly increased President Kais Saed’s popularity. Previously, the president had used populist language influenced by a mix of Arab nationalist nostrums, left-wing beliefs, and anti-Western conspiracy theories. He has now incorporated the Palestinian issue. On October 7, Saed published a statement expressing his “complete and unconditional solidarity with the Palestinian people” and urging “the international community… to put an end to the perfidious occupation of the entire Palestinian territory.”


By making these and other statements, the president was riding a wave of public outrage directed at Israel and its Western sponsors, while also encouraging more of the same. Following that, there was a wave of protests against Western support for Israel. Thousands marched in Tunis on October 12 in response to a demand by the biggest trade union, UGTT, and many civil society organisations. Three days later, the opposition National Salvation Front, whose major leaders are imprisoned on charges of attempting to subvert state security, staged a protest against “unconditional” French and American backing for Israel. Tunisia’s MPs unanimously asked for an emergency vote on a measure criminalising any attempt to normalise relations with Israel on October 16 in a special session. (A similar goal was achieved by the legislature in nearby Algeria.)

Part of Saed’s motivation for adopting a strong position and inciting public outrage may be to divert attention away from the country’s dismal economic situation. (By contrast, Algeria, despite its staunchly pro-Palestinian rhetoric, has put severe limits on demonstrations, afraid that they could spiral out of hand.) Tunisia has significant levels of poverty and unemployment. It is also saddled with significant foreign debt, on which it may have to default in 2024 or 2025. The administration has been in acrimonious negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over a loan that would help it stay solvent, but this arrangement appears improbable because negotiations have stalled. The IMF is not included as a source of external funding in the draught finance law circulating in Tunis for 2024.


Tunisia’s Jewish community is likewise facing public outrage directed against Israel. Crowds vandalised a monument associated with this village of roughly 1,500 people and, separately, burned down Rabbi Yossef Maarabi’s sixteenth-century mausoleum in the country’s south.

Protesters have also targeted Israel’s Western allies’ diplomatic missions, particularly those in France, Germany, and the United States. Following the deadly blast at the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City on October 17, hundreds of Tunisians marched to the French embassy, including members of political parties and civil society organisations from across the political spectrum. They chastised the French media for supposedly favouring Israel and demanded that the French and US embassies be expelled. More protests followed, with some calling for the expulsion of the German ambassador, who had declared on national radio that Israelis were victims of “Palestinian terrorism” in a speech. Dozens of protesters conducted sit-ins in front of the French cultural centre and embassy in Tunis, chanting anti-French chants.


Tunisia has embraced a hardline anti-Israel position in its communications to outside actors. On October 17, Saed announced that the “Zionist entity” – a phrase frequently used by other anti-normalisation countries such as Algeria, Libya, and Syria to refer to Israel – had violated “human rights and committed atrocities while posing as a victim in front of the world.” Following that, he urged “all peoples and free men throughout the world who believe in universal human values to act to put an end to the crimes of the worldwide Zionist movement” . Tunisia abstained on October 27 in contrast to Algeria’s vote in support of a UN General Assembly resolution asking for an urgent humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. Tunisia’s permanent ambassador to the UN, Tarak Ladab, said the “grave and unprecedented” situation in Gaza demanded a “clearer” stance than that described in the resolution.

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