The conflict between Israel and Hamas along the Gaza border is in growing danger of becoming a regional war involving Iran and the United States, an international security firm has warned.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Tuesday it had secured its border with Gaza, three days after Hamas militants from the exclave launched an assault on southern Israel in the country’s biggest breach since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Israel has continued with air strikes on targets in Gaza as the war’s death toll rises. As of Tuesday, at least 900 Israelis and at least 700 Palestinians have died, according to Reuters, with thousands on both sides injured.
Ali Barakeh, a member of Hamas’ exiled leadership in Beirut, told the Associated Press his group had enough rockets to last a long time and would use dozens of hostages to secure the release of Palestinians detained in Israel and overseas.
An assessment given to Newsweek by security firm Global Guardian, which has been evacuating dozens of its clients from Israel since the hostilities broke out on Saturday, said it was significant that Israel had called up more than 300,000 reservists and had evacuated the border areas.
It said that Israel would likely make its next move when Israeli citizens by the border with Gaza were safe.
Whether this would be followed by a ground incursion into Gaza or a pre-emptive strike at Hezbollah, “the probability of multi-front conflict is rapidly increasing.”
Global Guardian also said an incursion would likely prompt a response from Hamas backers, Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Russia has informed Israel that U.S. entry into the conflict would result in Iranian-aligned forces in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon entering the war, it added.
“There are many different ways in which the situation could become regional and essentially a much larger conflict involving all the major players. It’s been a major concern for a very long time, and all roads have been leading here,” Zev Faintuch, Global Guardian’s senior intelligence analyst told Newsweek.
“This has been part of Iran’s long-term strategy—to create what they call ‘Ring of Fire’ around Israel and to engender this potential multi-front war. They have auxiliaries and different militias, they have got Hezbollah.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Tehran was not involved in the Hamas attack on Israel but praised those “who planned the attack on the Zionist regime.”
But Faintuch said that American military assets now off the coast of Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, and in the Arabian Gulf, showed “this could easily draw in the U.S.”
“There’s definitely the potential for this becoming a regional conflict, and that’s our biggest concern,” he said.
Faintuch, who was a former IDF infantry gunner, said Israel would have to act quickly as time and international support are inversely correlated.
His firm’s report predicts that an Israeli invasion and operation to eliminate Hamas would result in high civilian casualties, especially as Hamas is likely to use human shields and Palestinian casualties to promote its strategic goals.
“When you have a horrific event like this, international legitimacy is high, but as time goes on, Israel’s real global support is going to get diminished,” he said. “In terms of legitimacy, it is very important to ensure that whatever Israel does is they do it quickly because that legitimacy is going to get eroded.”