'Conflict likely to continue as Israel will fear looking weak after rocket strike,' says analyst

13 May 2021, 18:37

By Fiona Jones

Middle East analyst Michael Stephens explains to LBC why there are "a lot of signs" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will escalate further.

Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired around 1000 rockets at Israel after air strikes killed their senior military figures during another night of escalating violence.

Dozens have died in the most severe outbreak of violence since the 50-day war in 2014, with no resolution in sight and both sides talking up the prospect of a full-scale conflict.

The death toll in Gaza rose to 69 Palestinians by Thursday morning, including 16 children and six women, according to the territory's health ministry.

Middle East analyst Michael Stephens said there is more chance of the situation escalating than deescalating: "Both Hamas and Israel don't seem to be backing down. You alluded to the casualty count, it just keeps going up. Every time that happens, both leaders in Israel and Hamas are under pressure to respond and not appearing to back down and looking weak."

He told LBC there is "one chance" the conflict may lessen: "There's been an outbreak of violence inside Israel between Israeli-Arab citizens and Israeli-Jewish citizens. That has shocked a lot of people and a lot of politicians are now calling for calm and restraint."

Reporter Bel Trew in Lod, Israel, was present for this internal fighting on Wednesday and had to don bulletproof protection while live on air.

"To some extent, you can say that law and order broke down in Israel yesterday and it was pretty shocking," Mr Stephens said, pointing out that the conflict between Israeli-Arabs and Israeli-Jews may cause people to question whether it is "worth it."

He continued that the fate of the clash is "in the balance" because "if Hamas want to fire more rockets tonight, I just can't see how an operation isn't going to happen."

He said that having followed the conflict for decades, "I can't recall a period in which 1000 rockets in one day were fired into Israel. If it was maybe tens of rockets, you could have had a deescalation and both sides could have stepped away...but the volume of rockets make Israel look like it's weak.

"From a defence perspective I don't think politically it's viable for Israel to do nothing and also from a strategic perspective."

Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely is taking listeners' calls live on LBC from 8pm - you can watch it here for the latest update.