By Staff Writer
The world is transfixed by the horrific events unfolding in Israel and Gaza, with the Israeli government declaring war on the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
This follows a new series of surprise, coordinated attacks by Hamas on Israel which in turn has mounted a severe retaliation and has vowed to wipe out Hamas.
The current hostilities have escalated the long-running conflict with the resulting death toll on both sides into the thousands and increasing daily, especially the toll on non-combatant ordinary citizens.
The escalation of the conflict has raised concerns globally about the likelihood of existing tensions in the Middle East worsening as a result.
The action by Hamas has been condemned by the United Kingdom, the United States and many other governments which have backed Israel and declared Hamas a terrorist organisation.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Israel has the absolute right to defend itself and to deter further incursions…We will continue to provide – whether that’s diplomatic, intelligence or security support – as they need…Terrorism will not prevail.”
US President Joe Biden called the Hamas attack on Israel “pure unadulterated evil” and vowed to stand by Israel.
“The United States stands with Israel,” Mr Biden said. “We will never fail to have their back. We’ll make sure they have the help their citizens need and they can continue to defend themselves.”
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres spoke of his “utter condemnation of the abhorrent attacks by Hamas and others against Israeli towns and villages in the Gaza periphery.”
There are also reports of the conflict already showing signs of widening with missile attacks on Israel said to have been launched from Syrian territory. Also, the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah said it fired missiles against an Israeli military position which it said was in response to the killing of three of its fighters.
A spike in global oil prices has been attributed to worries that the crisis could impact the vital oil-producing region with a knock-on effect on output with consequential effects on the global economy.
A background explanation on the UK’s BBC News website offers an insight into the scale of the antagonism between the two sides.
“Hamas is a Palestinian militant group which rules the Gaza Strip. The group is sworn to Israel’s destruction and wants to replace it with an Islamic state. Hamas has fought several wars with Israel since it took power in Gaza in 2007.
It has fired - or allowed other militant groups to fire - thousands of rockets at Israel, and carried out other deadly attacks.
Israel has repeatedly attacked Hamas with air strikes in response and sent troops into Gaza during two of the wars. Together with Egypt, it has blockaded the Gaza Strip since 2007 for what it describes as security reasons.
Hamas - or in some cases its military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades - has been designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, the European Union and the UK, as well as other powers.
Iran backs the group, providing it with funding, weapons and training.”