‘After the death of the NGO workers you see that Israel is increasingly alone’

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The World Central Kitchen logo was on the roof of the vehicles. Images now show how an Israeli missile pierced through the logo and exploded the jeep. According to the BBC, three jeeps were hit. Seven employees of World Central Kitchen, an NGO headquartered in Washington, have been killed.

The attack has been heavily condemned in Europe, the US and elsewhere. Israel calls it a mistake and has launched an investigation. “This is completely unacceptable,” says Middle East expert Koert Debeuf (VUB). “This also undermines the credibility of the Israeli army. Israel claims it is waging a ‘precision war’. It uses modern technology to attack targets. But this attack proves that the bombings are not so precise after all.”

This mistake follows a siege of Al-Shifa Hospital. According to the Palestinians, hundreds of bodies have been found there.

“That’s right, Israel claims that the hospital is a Hamas stronghold. But it has never provided convincing evidence for this. In the past, the army showed images of weapons that had allegedly been found there and inscriptions on the wall, which ultimately turned out to be just a calendar. That is also bad for the credibility of the Israeli forces. The sharp reactions to the deaths of NGO workers show that the country is increasingly alone.”

Demonstrators burn Israeli and American flags during a demonstration in Tehran. They carry a portrait of the slain leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Qasem Soleimani.Image ARASH KHAMOOSHI / NYT

Israel eliminated leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards with a bombardment in the Syrian capital Damascus. That’s exactly where the army was.

“Yes, but that does bring us closer to a regional war. Israel targeted part of the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus. Such an embassy is officially part of Iranian territory. This is probably the biggest escalation since the start of the conflict.

“Syria is an important link for Iran, because it arms the Lebanese Hezbollah from Damascus. In recent years, Israel has attacked many targets of the Revolutionary Guard – which is responsible for that armament – in Syria. But that was more about weapons depots or transports. This is of a different order.

“In Iran the call for retaliation is now very strong. Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has vowed revenge for the attack. If Khamenei does not want to show himself weak, then there must also be retaliation. When the Americans took out Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, there was no strong response.”

The bombed Iranian embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus.Image AFP

Does Iran dare to respond this time?

“The regime in Tehran has certainly said that it will do so. I expect it will call in Hezbollah for this. The Lebanese organization may carry out more rocket attacks on northern Israel. In this way, this also brings a war between Israel and Lebanon closer. But I think Iran will still be quite cautious. Ultimately, no one wants a regional conflict.”

Not even Iran?

“If Iran ever enters into direct conflict with Israel, the US would be forced to intervene. That’s why I don’t think it will happen. But in Israel, Netanyahu’s government has often been accused of seeking regional conflict. Some statements by extreme right-wing politicians – in fact also this attack on the Iranian embassy – point in that direction. It would bring Israel out of its diplomatic isolation.”

The UN Security Council has been convened to discuss the attack. What is moving in that area?

“There it seems that Israel is losing America’s support more and more. There is an open feud between Netanyahu’s government and President Joe Biden’s. Last week, the US abstained from a vote on a resolution calling for a ceasefire, prompting the Security Council to adopt it.

“That was a slap in the face for many Israelis. The Israeli newspapers were full of it the next day. Such a mood is certainly not symbolic.

“But of course little will change on the ground. Even though the US abstained from the vote, it has just approved a major arms shipment with thousands of bombs and F-35 fighter jets.”

The US is also busy with diplomatic missions, what is being said there?

“Indeed, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in France and Belgium this week and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is traveling to Saudi Arabia. I think the attack on the embassy in Damascus will be heavily discussed. The most important question is: what are we going to do with this?”

Why is Sullivan going to Saudi Arabia?

“That country can play an important role in getting out of this war. Before October 7, there was almost a peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, in which the Americans would offer the Saudis certain security guarantees, because they also feel threatened by Iran. In return, the Saudis would demand concessions from Israel to the Palestinians. But the longer this war goes on, the less likely it is that this agreement will ever be reached.”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: death NGO workers Israel increasingly

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