While analysts believe Qatar does have the ability to negotiate a ceasefire, Israel’s intention to continue the war appears to be a major obstacle.
The unprecedented Israeli war on Gaza has been in the global spotlight since its very beginning on 7 October and has largely pushed the Middle East into a state of paralysis and anticipation, triggering speculations on how it could unravel.
Nearly one month on, the Israeli aggression has morphed from mere escalation into a brutal war that has now edged towards a genocide of the native Palestinian people, according to top officials.
So far, Israel has imposed a tight siege that prevents the entry of food, water, fuel and medical supplies, while simultaneously bombing thousands of homes, hospitals, and schools, and killing more than 9,000 Palestinians, the majority of which are civilians, children and women.
Meanwhile, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have attempted to advance by land as part of plans to lead a full-blown ground invasion in Gaza, and Iran’s proxies, including Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, have entered the fighting area.
The quickly unravelling developments have led to widespread speculation and analysts believe the war could last much longer.
“I believe this is not going to end anytime soon. Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza will not give up the fight, nor will Israel end its aggression until it supposedly wins. Israel just began full-scale military operations, but these are not likely to end the war,” Imad Harb, Director of Research and Analysis at the Arab Center in Washington DC, told Doha News.
Israel has perceived its war on Gaza as a chance to fully eradicate Hamas, which has been actively fighting against the 75-year Israeli occupation of Palestine and the 16-year blockade of the impoverished Gaza Strip.
The movement was formed in 1987 after the start of the first Intifada, or uprising, which was triggered by the Israeli killing of labourers from the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza. Palestinians responded by holding mass demonstrations against the Israeli occupation.
Between 1987 and 1993, more than 1,000 Palestinians were killed.
The current war in Gaza has brought forth scenes that are reminiscent of the Intifada, and was triggered after Hamas fighters carried out the largest Palestinian operation against Israel in modern history on October 7.
At the time, the Al Qassam Brigades – Hamas’ armed wing – infiltrated Israeli-occupied territories surrounding Gaza through air, land and sea for the very first time in years.
For many Palestinians, that moment was seen as a long-awaited triumph against Israel. The scenes have also brought a sense of hope to many Palestinians who even described it as a major step towards the liberation of Palestine.
A shaken Israel – where protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been taking place – was quick to use its commonly used card of “eradicating” Hamas in Gaza and ordered a relentless and deadly war in the besieged Strip.
With the backing of its key Western allies, Israel has carried out one massacre after another in Gaza, killing almost 10,000 people, 70 percent of which are women and children, within just three weeks.
The death toll is likely higher as many bodies remain under the rubble.
“Whatever the end of this war is, the only real and sad outcome is the death of thousands of Palestinian civilians and the further destruction of Gaza,” Harb said.
Ibrahim Fraihat, associate professor in international conflict resolution at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, told Doha News that “we are still at the beginning” stages of the war, especially with US backing.
“I think it’s going to be definitely different from the previous wars that we saw since 2007 in Gaza and Israel. And I think one key reason for this is the American position that is fully backing the Israeli position of this war,” Fraihat said.
Israel’s ultimate failure
Since the start, Netanyahu has vowed to reduce Gaza to rubble and completely wipe out Hamas. Seeking to act on its threats, the IOF has been attempting to advance militarily in Gaza over the past two weeks under its plans to wage a full ground invasion into the Strip.
But Hamas fighters have been battling the IOF’s attempts to enter Gaza through several areas, killing tens of Israeli soldiers, the largest such Israeli military casualty figure in years.
While Israel is the largest regional military power, analysts say its capabilities are not enough.
“Even if Israel succeeds in controlling the Gaza Strip, there will still be resistance to occupation, and it will be bloody,” Harb said.
Fraihat agreed, adding that even the US has now become wary of whether Israel would be able to achieve its end goal, despite its vocal rejection of a ceasefire and support of eradicating Hamas.
The director of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency Ronen Bar even admitted on October 16 that it had failed to detect Hamas’ infiltration into Gaza at the time of the Hamas operation.
“Hamas is deeply rooted within the people, it is not an isolated army group that can be eradicated easily […] Israel will not be able to score or to achieve a decisive victory in Gaza no matter how long it will fight, because Israel was badly defeated on October 7th with the collapse of the security and intelligence systems,” he said.
Unlike previous wars, Israel is now appearing to lose its control of a much more powerful weapon – the narrative over its occupation of Palestine. This has become the current reality thanks to social media and the growing voices of Palestinian journalists in Gaza who have been able to document the IOF’s crimes.
Thousands of protesters have flooded the streets of countries across the world, from the US, London, Canada, Jordan, and Qatar among many others, all showing a united stance in calls for an immediate ceasefire.
As it continues to lose its grip over the narrative, Israel has scrambled to suppress Palestinians across Palestine and the illegally occupied 48 territories, subjecting locals to heavy surveillance. Despite convincing Western allies that its target is Hamas in Gaza, it has deployed its relentless attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank and has carried out mass arrests.
“It is possible that the occupied West Bank will erupt with popular mobilisation against occupation (more civilian deaths),” Harb said.
Countries around the world have also appeared to take a more decisive stance towards Israel. Bolivia became the first country to sever its ties with Israel and Jordan, Bahrain, Chile, and Colombia withrew their ambassadors from Tel Aviv.
Harb noted that normalisers “have lost the bet that relations with the Zionist state will be a good thing for them and for the Palestinians”.
“In fact, normalisation is most likely dead or at least dormant for some years in the future. Regimes will continue to manoeuvre to stay alive, though. But on the official and popular level, there is no more illusion that the United States can be other than Israel’s protector for a long time to come,” he said.
Could a regional war break out?
The deadly war has triggered fears over a possible regional spillover, especially with the intervention of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthis, both of which fall under what is known as the ‘Axis of Resistance’.
Fighting first erupted on Lebanese-Israeli borders last month between the powerful Hezbollah movement and the IOF, forcing civilians on both sides of the border to evacuate in droves and in turn triggered concerns over a potential war that would be as deadly as the Israel-Hezbollah face-off of 2006.
At the time, Israel waged a deadly 34-day war on Lebanon, killing 1,200 mostly Lebanese civilians. The war ended with Hezbollah forcing Israeli soldiers out after weeks of intense attacks.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Friday broke his silence on Israel’s onslaught of Gaza, highlighting that his group had already “entered the battle” with the past weeks’ unprecedented cross-border attacks. He threatened that it “will not be limited to this”, though fell short of announcing a full engagement in the war.
Fraihat noted that the region would only witness “some partial involvement similar to the current paradigm of intervention” in the south of Lebanon.
“I think the degree where we could expect to see some changes to the current paradigm is if we start to see that Hamas is facing an existential threat in Gaza […] I think if we start to see some serious threat to this, then we could expect the pattern of clashes in the southern part of Lebanon changing, meaning with Hezbollah intervening in this war,” Fraihat explained.
“I don’t think that we’re going to see serious changes to the current pattern with Hezbollah,” he added.
Over in Yemen, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels launched what they described as a “large number” of ballistic missiles and drones towards Israel on Tuesday, marking the first time the group claimed the attack. The Israeli military said it dodged an “aerial target” that it detected over the Red Sea.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said it is the third operation targeting Israel and threatened to carry out further attacks “until the Israeli aggression stops”.
End with a ceasefire?
While analysts see that the war is likely to drag on much longer, they believe it would eventually end in a ceasefire, though such a scenarios is barely on the horizon.
Fraihat believes the outcomes would include Hamas losing some of its military capabilities as well as major destruction and civilian losses in Gaza.
When asked about the possibility of Qatar mediating a ceasefire, as it has done so in past, Fraihat said: “We are still far from a ceasefire”. However, he believes the Qatari mediation so far reached certain goals, including the release of captives from Hamas.
“I don’t think there is a possibility for them to succeed on a ceasefire, it can succeed probably on things like prisoner exchange and some other humanitarian intervention level, like humanitarian support, and food,” he said.
Qatar, the host of the Hamas political bureau, has been leading negotiations to release civilians from the Palestinian group as part of de-escalation efforts to end the bloodshed in Gaza.
Doha managed to mediate the release of two American captives from Hamas on October 20, both identified as Judith Raanan and Natalie Raanan – a mother and a daughter.
Then on October 23, Qatar and Egypt pushed for the release of two elderly women from Hamas, both identified as 79-year-old Nurit Yitzhak and 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz.
Then on Wednesday, it reportedly brokered an agreement between Egypt, Israel and Hamas in coordination with the US that allows the evacuation of foreign passport holders and some seriously wounded individuals from Gaza through Rafah.
While analysts believe Qatar does have the ability to negotiate a ceasefire, Israel’s intention to continue the war remains a major obstacle.
“Qatar has already succeeded in negotiating the release of some Israeli prisoners and it can be a good interlocutor for a ceasefire. Unfortunately, Israel is not interested in a ceasefire and the United States is not going to force it to agree to one,” Harb said.