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HomenewsIsrael-Gaza war: Which international actors can play peacemaker?

Israel-Gaza war: Which international actors can play peacemaker?

The United Nations secretary-general says he is “deeply distressed” by Israel’s complete siege of the Gaza Strip on day four of the deadly assault.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said bombardment has “just started” after at least 900 Israelis were killed in the unprecedented Hamas attack on Saturday.

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Most Western nations have shied away from calling on Israel to slow its brutal military response.

More than 700 Palestinians have been killed in three days of intense bombing, with 2.4 million Palestinians living there having nowhere to go amid an Israeli land, sea and air blockade.

Can the international community intervene to stop Israel from exacting collective punishment on the Palestinians of Gaza?

“I think it’s early to talk about mediation, because [right now] Israel is reacting based on anger and revenge,” Professor Mahjoob Zweiri, director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera.

Here’s a closer look at the countries and international organisations that may play peacemaker.

The Arab League

The Arab League’s foreign ministers will meet on Wednesday in an emergency summit.

The extraordinary session was requested by the Palestinian delegation, the League’s statement said.

Secretary-General Hossam Zaki said the ministers would discuss Arab efforts to “stop the Israeli aggression” on Gaza.

The possible outcomes of tomorrow’s meeting remain unclear.

Zweiri says the Arab League has no role to play. “It’s a reflection of the fragmented Arab governments. It has no tools.”

China

Beijing expressed deep concern over the escalation of conflict and called for “calm”.

Observers have wondered if China will try to promote itself as a regional peacemaker after it successfully brokered a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In April, the country’s then-foreign minister, Qin Gang, told the Israeli and Palestinian foreign ministers that China was ready to facilitate efforts towards peace talks.

China supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as the capital of a sovereign Palestinian state. It has also advocated for international development assistance for Palestinians.

Egypt

Cairo has acted as a mediator between Israel and Palestinian groups in previous conflicts but Zweiri says it will try to distance itself from the escalating situation in Gaza.

“They [Egypt] want to distance themselves from what is happening because … Egypt is going to elections,” he said.

Europe

The leaders of many European nations including France and Germany condemned the Hamas attacks and have shown solidarity with Israel.

The European Union foreign ministers are scheduled to hold an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the war.

The EU’s initial response to the conflict was to announce the immediate suspension of development aid for Palestinians. Later it said it would be reviewing the assistance, not suspending it.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albarez said such a move was unacceptable and cooperation must continue.

“We cannot confuse Hamas, which is on the European Union’s list of terrorist groups, with the Palestinian population, the Palestinian Authority, or the United Nations organisations present on the ground,” he told Spanish radio station Cadena SER on Tuesday morning.

Iran

Iran’s possible role in mediation remains unclear.

Its Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei said on Tuesday: “We of course defend Palestinians. We kiss the forehead and arms of the brave fighters and youths of Palestine, yes it’s true.

“But those who say non-Palestinians were behind what was done… they do not know Palestinians well. They have underestimated the nation of Palestine. That is their mistake.”

Qatar

The Gulf nation is known for its mediation efforts in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and its ongoing assistance to Gaza, which has been under Israeli siege for 16 years.

“Our priorities are to end the bloodshed, release the prisoners and make sure the conflict is contained with no regional spillover,” foreign ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari told Reuters.

However, an Israeli official told Reuters: “There are no negotiations under way.”

Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said creating a Palestinian state was the “most reliable” solution for peace in Israel and that fighting alone would not ensure security.

Turkey

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on both Hamas fighters and Israeli armed forces to stop the violence and offered to mediate.

If peace talks are to start, Zweiri believes Turkey and Qatar will both have an active role.

“I’m assuming this because they both have communications with Hamas and Israel, and we have to look at who is capable of being able to talk to both sides.”

UN agencies

As part of earlier mediation efforts, weeks before the Saturday attack, the UN was engaged in diplomacy to try to prevent new armed confrontations between Israel and Hamas.

UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland met Hamas officials in Gaza and posted on X: “The United Nations is talking to and working with all concerned to improve the lives of people in Gaza, particularly the most vulnerable.”

The United States

Israel’s closest ally has promised “rock solid and unwavering” support to Israel and said it would send munitions as it moved its military ships and aircraft closer to it.

Al Jazeera’s senior correspondent John Hendren, reporting from Washington, DC, said talks of diplomacy and of a two-state solution are on hold for now.

Washington has said it wants a future Palestinian state, but it has failed to convince Israel, to which it gives $3bn in annual military aid, to honour the agreements it signed with the Palestinians.

Settlement expansion on Palestinian lands and settler violence have increased, particularly under the extreme right-wing government Netanyahu heads.

Zweiri said the US reaction has been shocking. “They [the US] are basically allowing Israel to do what they want in Gaza.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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