Barely a week after the results of the US Presidential election were heard has President Barack Obama, voted in for a second term, been dealt his first test of foreign policy.
An escalation in the conflict between Israel and Gaza, with civilian casualties recorded on both sides, threatens to weigh on the mind of a President already dealing with the fallout from the attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi and the now former-CIA head David Petraeus’ indiscretions.
Cross-border violence has soared in recent weeks with the launch of rockets into Israel by militants in Gaza, and Israel responding with air strikes killing prominent Hamas member Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari.
Although the recent spate of violence is yet to reach the scale of the 2008 Gaza war, which claimed the lives of hundreds of Palestinians, the attacks mark an escalation in the conflict in the lead up to Israel’s elections in January 2013. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the ongoing operation against Hamas could be extended, with Israeli military spokesman Joshua Hantman informing the BBC that a ground offensive remained a possible option.
The attacks even prompted barbed exchanges between Hamas and the Israeli Defence Forces on social networking sites. The IDF took to its official Twitter account to recommend that Hamas operatives remain below ground in the days ahead, before repeating its threat that a ground offensive could be launched.
The US has been quick to respond, with President Obama speaking with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Wednesday night to discuss the violence. The White House reiterated Obama’s support of Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks, but said the President urged Israel to make ‘every effort to avoid civilian casualties’.
With both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu pledging to stay in close communication over the coming days, Obama will need to handle the situation delicately if tensions within the Gaza strip are to ease. With President Obama’s administration currently in the midst of investigating the Benghazi attack, the newly re-elected President’s foreign policy is being tested before the polls are cold.