MARK ALMOND: By killing innocent aid workers in Gaza and now striking out at Iran, Israel not only risks the enormous goodwill shown by the West after October 7 but could also escalate the conflict into a multi-front war it can never win

The deadly air strike which killed three Britons and four other aid workers in Gaza on Monday has shattered any assumption the West will continue to support Israel indefinitely in its war against Hamas terrorists.

The carnage unleashed by the Israeli drones is as shocking as it is bewildering. How could the Israeli air force possibly have launched it when aid convoy was so clearly marked, and the Israelis were informed of its whereabouts?

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, described the strike as ‘a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip’, before adding complacently: ‘This happens in wartime.’

But that is not good enough. The optics of this — the needless slaughter of well-intentioned young people trying to help the disadvantaged in the most perilous place on Earth — could not be worse.

The war between Israel and Hamas, has dragged on for seven months since the slaughter of 1,200 Israelis by terrorists on October 7. Hamas, of course, provoked the terrible human cost to Palestinian civilians in Gaza by their rampage.

Seven staff were killed in the airstrike on the aid convoy, including three British nationals

But the worldwide sympathy Israel benefited from after the attack is dissipating rapidly. Against a background of the relentless destruction of Gaza, the ever-rising death toll and the hunger that stalks the benighted territory, this terrible error will only fuel claims Israel is bent on trigger-happy revenge, whatever the consequences.

The fact that at least two of the three Britons killed are former Marines, and the other fatalities come from the U.S. and Australia — both stalwart allies of Israel — only makes things worse.

As I say, we have to keep things in perspective. None of this would have happened had not the monstrous terrorists of Hamas embarked on their grotesque attack on Israel.

But Israel has to take heed of the fact that its Western allies are increasingly warning Netanyahu’s government to reduce the civilian harm caused by its war to crush terrorists there.

Yet humanitarian concerns are not alone in unsettling Israel’s Western allies. They are deeply worried about being dragged into a bigger war. There is a palpable fear that the Gaza conflict threatens peace and stability far beyond Israel.

Also on Monday, Israeli F-35 stealth bombers struck a conclave of the Jewish state’s deadly enemies in the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Senior Iranian commanders of the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards, who co-ordinate anti-Israeli activities with Palestinian jihadists and Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah militants, were killed.

No need to mourn them, but we cannot ignore the truth that killing bad guys can have bad consequences.

One of the World Central Kitchen aid convoy vehicles hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza

One of the World Central Kitchen aid convoy vehicles hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza

An official inspects damage to an aid convoy vehicle in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza

An official inspects damage to an aid convoy vehicle in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza

The Israelis wanted to disrupt the likelihood of Iran co-ordinating actions against them along their northern borders with Lebanon and Syria. Rockets launched from those two countries could cause serious damage to Israel because Iran sends its proxies serious hardware.

But does Israel risk inflaming the whole Middle East by daring the Iranian ayatollahs to retaliate?

Already, the conflict has spread. Egypt and the vital Suez Canal have faced disruption as the Yemeni Houthis attack Western shipping in support of Hamas.

Neutral Jordan could be dragged in soon, too. The Israeli F-35s flew over Jordan to attack Syria’s capital by surprise. They achieved that, but their violation of Jordanian neutrality puts its pro-Western government under pressure because so many of its people are Palestinians who are sympathetic to their cousins in Gaza.

One reason for the roundabout flight path of the Israeli bombers was to avoid Russian-manned anti-aircraft defences based to the west and north of Damascus. The presence of thousands of Russian military personnel in Syria in areas where Iranian and Hezbollah forces also operate means a clash between Putin’s troops and Israel cannot be ruled out.

U.S. troops are also present in eastern Syria and Iraq. They have already faced sporadic drone strikes by local pro-Iranian militias.

The risk of an Israeli-Iranian war dragging in the superpowers, already at odds over Ukraine, cannot be ignored. Iran might aspire to go nuclear as Israel fears, but does not yet have the Bomb. Israel, Russia and the U.S. are nuclear powers — and many fear Netanyahu is playing with fire and gambling recklessly to save his political skin.

Before the war broke out, he was facing calls to resign over corruption charges. His wafer-thin parliamentary majority was under threat. The Hamas attacks in October punctured his reputation as Israel’s ‘Mr Security’, although, ironically, the war has saved his political career for the time being.

If Netanyahu’s instinct for political survival leads him to widen the Gaza war, he will find he has few friends left among Israel’s traditional allies.

For it would not only be bad for his own country — but could plunge the rest of us into conflagration as well.

Mark Almond is director of the Crisis Research Institute, Oxford.