An Israeli ground offensive on Gaza risks setting fire to the entire region of the Middle East, which particularly threatens peace in Lebanon. The country is preparing for the worst, testifies a Quebec professor on site.
“Many people are trying to prepare in one way or another, by stocking up on basic necessities, in case the situation deteriorates,” explains Marie-Joëlle Zahar, from Beirut.
Professor of political science at the University of Montreal and specialist in the Middle East and international security, she describes the atmosphere as “super calm” in the Lebanese capital on Friday, on the eve of her return from her trip.
On Thursday, the Canadian government asked to avoid all travel to this country due to the deterioration of security conditions, in particular because of demonstrations. “If you are there, it is time to consider leaving the country while commercial means are available,” warned the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly.
In recent weeks, southern Lebanon has been targeted by Israeli artillery fire, targeting positions of Hezbollah, an ally of the Iran-backed militant group Hamas. Lebanon could be the scene of a new front in the conflict, at a time when the Israeli army is preparing to launch a ground operation in Gaza to respond to the surprise attack by Hamas on October 7.
“The Lebanese know from their own experience what collective punishment by the State of Israel is since twice, in 1995 and in 2006, Israel responded with massive military operations to attacks by Hezbollah,” explains she said.
The political situation in Lebanon is complex and opinions differ regarding Hamas, which is hostile to Israel. One thing is certain, according to Mme Zahar, “there is certainly sympathy for the Palestinian people and for what the people of Gaza are going through today.”
According to the specialist, Lebanon and the entire region are at high risk of “regional conflagration”. The fate of the populations is “really in the hands of the Israeli government,” she believes. “You know, wars are easy to start. But it’s difficult to finish. »
Respect for international law
Marie-Joëlle Zahar believes that images of the destruction of Gaza are broadcast more widely in Lebanon than in Canada. She believes that the Canadian government should more clearly convey the message to that of Israel that its responsibility is to protect the lives of civilians.
“Unfortunately, our position, even if it is very clear regarding the horror that the Israelis experienced on October 7, it is much less clear compared to the horror that the Palestinians are experiencing today” , she criticizes.
According to his analysis, the belligerents in this conflict are “caught in a spiral” which leads to war. Canada should, in this “complicated” context, stick to denouncing violations of international law, including any military response from Israel that is not “proportional”, and the maintenance of a blockade of essential goods in Gaza. , “not counting the strikes which affected displaced people”.
The Liberal government repeats that Israel has “the right to defend itself”, but “in accordance with international law”, a phrase that experts have found ambiguous. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went a little further Friday morning.
“The protection of civilian lives, whether for hostages held captive by Hamas or civilians in Gaza or elsewhere, should be at the forefront of everything we do,” he promised . The liberal leader is also waiting to “determine exactly what happened” during an explosion at Gaza’s Ahli Arab hospital before blaming one party in the conflict.
The Canadian government indicates that 14,500 of its nationals are registered with its embassy in Lebanon. The true number of Canadians currently in the country could be up to three times higher.
With Agence France-Presse