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The risk of a wider war in the Middle East (F Zakaria)

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January 11, 2024

An Assassination and the Risk of Wider War

Will the Gaza war spill across the Middle East, as analysts have feared since it began? Signs are worrisome.
Recent weeks have brought troubling developments, as the Global Briefing has noted. In late December, an Israeli airstrike killed a high-ranking Iranian general in Damascus. An ISIS-claimed bombing in Iran will likely set the Middle East’s wildcard military power on edge. A US-led coalition is facing off with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militants in the Red Sea, where global shipping has been disrupted. Iran has deployed a warship. This week, Israel killed a top Hezbollah commander in southern Lebanon.
 Of particular note, some say, was the suspected Israeli assassination of a senior Hamas leader in Beirut last Tuesday. (Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility.) At The National Interest, Burcu Ozcelik wrote that Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist group and dominant Lebanese political party, will face pressure to respond to the strike on its turf.
Even more significantly, the assassination could portend more of the same in other countries, as Ozcelik writes and as Hussein Ibish explains further at The Atlantic.
Since Oct. 7, Israel has signaled as much. “This is our Munich,” Israel’s Shin Bet security agency chief Ronen Bar was recorded saying, The Times of Israel reported in early December—a reference to the global, years-long Israeli operation to find and kill those responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli team members. (That operation was the subject of Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film “Munich.”) In response to Hamas’s massacre of Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, 2023, Israel will hunt down Hamas members “in every location, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Qatar, everyone,” Bar reportedly said, acknowledging that “it will take a few years.” In November, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant pledged that all Hamas members, including those outside Gaza, are “dead men walking,” adding that there is “no difference between a terrorist with a Kalashnikov and a terrorist in a three-piece suit.”



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