Leading article: There is only one route out of this bloodshed

Share

Yesterday was another black day for the Middle East. Israel ordered fresh air strikes on southern Lebanon and stepped up operations in Gaza. Hizbollah rockets slammed into the Israeli coastal city of Haifa. A British aircraft carrier was dispatched to evacuate Britons stranded in Lebanon. A full-scale regional war seems an increasingly possible outcome.

What the evolution of this crisis demonstrates is that a "show of force" in this volatile region can never be justified. The desire of the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, to prove his credentials as a strong leader was what lay behind Israel's move into Gaza. It was also behind the bombing of Beirut international airport. But all Mr Olmert has succeeded in doing is painting his government into a corner. Each act of violence by the Israeli military has so far been met with an equally violent response. Neither Hamas nor Hizbollah has surrendered in the face of Israel's overwhelming military superiority. And who can now predict where this will end? Are we to see Israeli troops in southern Lebanon once again? Israel claims the strings of Hamas and Hizbollah are being pulled in Damascus and Tehran. Does that mean air strikes on Syria - or even Iran - are a possibility?

Nothing can be discounted. So hard-line has been the rhetoric from the Israeli government that there is now no obvious way for it to climb down. A prisoner exchange was ruled out from the first. And neither the Hamas militia, nor Hizbollah, is likely to give up the Israeli soldiers they captured without something in return. The only outcome at the moment seems an escalation of violence.

It is almost incredible to recall that this crisis stems from the abduction of a single Israeli soldier three weeks ago. It is also incredible to remember that Mr Olmert was elected earlier this year on a platform of consolidating the borders of Israel. Now Israeli military expansion is on the agenda again. This is not a strong position for Mr Olmert. Meanwhile, it seems support for Hizbollah has been bolstered in Lebanon by the Israeli bombings. The same can be said for Hamas. This should not come as a surprise. Collective punishments, of the type Israel has visited on the citizens of Lebanon and Gaza, have always had a tendency to rally support for insurgent groups.

Of course, it is possible to sympathise with the Israeli situation. The rocket attacks from Gaza never stopped, despite disengagement. And the abductions of Israel soldiers were unacceptable, as was the Hizbollah incursion across the recognised Israeli border that enabled them to carry this out. It is also highly likely that Syria and Iran are stoking the flames of the crisis and arming Hizbollah, as Israel claims. But in an asymmetrical military situation - which this remains - it is incumbent on the stronger party to show restraint, especially in operations that have a high probability of resulting in civilian casualties. Israel has not done so. And we are seeing the results now in a crescendo of bloodshed.

The leaders of the G8 Summit in St Petersburg were right yesterday to demand a United Nations-supervised ceasefire. When this crisis began it was a narrow question of Israel's relationship with Hamas. It has now become a question of stability throughout the region. There must be international pressure on Syria to disarm Hizbollah. There must also be pressure on Israel to halt its operations. The outside world must engage once again.

Although the splits in opinion that have emerged in the G8 meeting do not augur well, international diplomacy remains the only escape route. Any side that will not countenance a negotiated settlement - whether in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza or Israel - must be considered an enemy of peace.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee