Israel and Hamas are heading for one of the most devastating wars in the 21st century. After a highly sophisticated terrorist attack that killed upwards of 1300 Israeli civilians and foreigners, Hamas has put the entire Palestinian population of Gaza into the crossfire of a brutal vengeance that hasn’t been seen since retaliatory actions in the Yugoslav Wars.

Israel will conduct its most thorough war since 1973, as many experience shock at Gaza’s deteriorating situation. International bodies attempt to deter a wider war through force deterrence, diplomacy, and pleas to Netanyahu’s ruling government as over two million Palestinians are trapped in the Gaza Strip.

Israel-Hamas War

In the aftermath of the heinous terror attacks by Hamas, Israel immediately declared war for the first time in 50 years. An emergency unity government has been formed around Benjamin Netanyahu, who originally came to power in Israel in the early 2000s due to security demands over any peace deal during the Second Intifada.

The United States, United Kingdom, and European Union expressed solidarity and full backing behind the potential Israeli operations. Still, they also have concerns over a deteriorating humanitarian situation for the two million Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel has enacted a scorched earth aerial campaign for the past week, including at least 6,000 airstrikes. For reference, the American-backed coalition used 5,000-6,000 airstrikes per month against ISIS.

Israeli Defense Forces shelling Hamas locations via NYT

Who is Supporting Who?

Israel is backed militarily by the United States government, who are all in despite being in a state of internal conflict. NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also stated the defense alliance would support Israel with potential logistical needs if the conflict escalated into a regional war.

Though internationally isolated, Hamas’ weapons and material support have come from the Islamic Republic and proxies in Syria and Lebanon. Hamas and Islamic Jihad also have training camps in both Syria and Lebanon.

Iran and its military wing, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, are willing to open ‘other fronts’ against Israel. Potential locations would include their proxy fighting forces in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the West Bank, with Yemen and Lebanon having sophisticated Iranian-made long-range ballistic missiles.

Hamas’ leadership resides in a major non-NATO ally, Qatar, and current NATO member, Turkey. US congressmen and senators have called for a review of the partnership between Ankara and Doha over the sheltering of the leadership of the designated terrorist organization.

Bashar al Assad and Hezbollah Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah via AFP

International Military Buildup

In response to the Iranian-led aggressive posture, the United States has activated the Sixth Fleet to stand by for combat and humanitarian readiness. Major carrier strike groups are currently deployed in the Eastern Mediterranean to assess the region and assist Israel if Iranian-backed groups exacerbate the ongoing war.

The USS Gerald Ford is the world’s largest and most powerful aircraft carrier. The Gerald Ford Carrier Strike Group (CSG) includes eight attack aircraft squadrons, and the Ticonderoga guided class USS Normandy (guided missiles), USS Thomas Hudner, USS Rampage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt.

Along with the Gerald Ford Carrier Strike Group, the Secretary of Defense dispatched the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to reinforce the Eastern Mediterranean. Along with The Eisenhower aircraft carrier, the CSG includes the USS Philippine Sea, guided-missile destroyers USS Gravely and Mason, Carrier Air Wing 3, and nine aircraft attack squadrons.

Dispatching the USS Eisenhower and its CSG is a direct message to Lebanon and Hezbollah. America’s first intervention in the Middle East was under President Eisenhower and his ‘Eisenhower Doctrine’ in defense of Lebanese President Camille Chamoun, whose rule was threatened by a coalition of pan-Arabists and Soviet-inspired left-wing groups in 1958.

The United States has warned Hezbollah, heavily embedded in Lebanon, that there will be a military response if the Iranian-commanded militia directly intervenes in the Israeli-Hamas War. If Israel and Hezbollah were to commence an all-out war, a nightmare scenario would ensue with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of civilian casualties between both nations.

Along with the two carrier strike groups, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) departed from Kuwait on an emergency deployment towards Israel as a war contingency escalated. Britain has also provided naval support, and the Hellenic Navy is currently on high alert for all situations in the region.

Other Potential Fronts to Watch Out For

Outside of Gaza, West Bank escalation has risen. Israeli settlers, backed by the notorious Ben Gvir, have stoked ethnic tensions by revenge shootings. Earlier tensions in the West Bank, including the wide-scale clashes in Jenin, could once again ignite if the war spirals.

Syria could be the most likely second front if regional war commences. With a large IRGC, Iraqi Shiite militias, and Hezbollah presence near the Golan Heights, escalation and potential renewed US strikes against Assad forces could occur.

Lebanon will likely become the most explosive scenario if Hezbollah continues to escalate operations across the Israeli border. If Hezbollah and the Israeli Defense Forces were to conduct an all-out war, 40-50,000 rockets a day could be launched by Hezbollah, where Israel would throw thousands of daily artillery, naval, and aerial bombardment. The casualties from the nightmare scenario would be in the millions.

The Sixth Fleet’s growing posture is for the nightmare scenario if Hezbollah, Assad, or the IRGC were to make a suicidal mistake and intervene directly in the Israel-Hamas War. Nevertheless, what comes next is now wholly in the hands of two leaders—Benjamin Netanyahu and Ali Khamenei.

Netanyahu, though forming an emergency government, has come under scrutiny for the lack of security during the October 7th attack. Along with fears of massive retaliation, unless Bibi can solve the terrorism problem thoroughly, a new cycle of violence could ensue in the next several generations of Palestinians.

Khamenei himself has made his country a prime and legitimate military target. With Iranian hallmarks in the October 7th massacres, the “supreme leader” now runs on borrowed time for whatever wrath Israel and the United States may take against Tehran.

A nightmare scenario has now put the Middle East on edge. Israel and IRGC-backed groups are now at a point of no return, and for the foreseeable future, neither will be able to coexist unless one side is destroyed entirely.