Israel’s Gaza strike, which killed the head of Hamas’ military wing, Ahmed Jabari, may cause a “very significant escalation and could cause a real rupture” in the already fragile relationship between Israel and Egypt, a leading Middle East expert said.
“It could mean the beginning of the end of the peace treaty with Israel,” David Pollock, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told Moment.
The attack, which occurred just before sundown in Gaza, reportedly killed Jabari and his son. It was followed by a number of targeted air strikes in what has been described as the largest offensive against the Gaza strip in four years. If it continues to escalate, it could cause a wave of unrest throughout the Egyptian street, with the Muslim Brotherhood government deciding to expel the Israeli ambassador in Cairo, Pollock said.
“The Egyptian government may use this as a reason to revise its relationship with Israel or accelerate their amendment to the peace treaty. If it further supports Hamas, it has the potential to really spiral downward into something quite serious.”
Pollock, who runs a bilingual blog in English and Arabic called Fikra Forum, is a former State Department official. Egypt’s reaction, he said, remains the “wild card.”
“Israel is probably reluctant to go in now. The situation is different now in Egypt [with the Muslim Brotherhood in power] and Israel knows that.”
Still, Israel may not have a choice. “If Hamas starts launching hundreds of rockets, it’s hard for Israel to avoid countering that. There is no reason to think this is going to end nicely, quickly, or cleanly,” he said.
In a statement, the IDF said that Jabari was responsible for organizing and launching terrorist attacks against Israel in recent years.
“The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure,” the statement said. “This was a surgical operation in cooperation with the Israeli Security Agency that was implemented on the basis of concrete intelligence and using advanced capabilities.”
According to reports, Hamas said that with the attack, “the occupation has opened the gates of hell on itself.”
Like what you’re reading? Sign up below for Moment’s free 3x a week newsletter to stay on top of everything in politics, culture and religion.