Utah professors provide insight into Gaza conflict

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The three days of Israeli air strikes on Gaza have left nearly 370 people dead, and another 1,400 are reported injured. Today, we spoke with two local Middle East experts who explained why this conflict matters to Utah and the United States.

Bombs continued to fall from the sky on Gaza today. The Israeli assaults have been targeting Hamas compounds in response to militant rocket attacks.

Utah professors provide insight into Gaza conflict

One University of Utah law professor who spent 19 years with the Israeli Defense Forces spoke to us by phone from Jerusalem and explained why Israel struck fast and hard.

"There really was no choice -- and that's the critical term here: no choice -- but to operationally engage Hamas differently than they've been engaged in the past. I think that's the reason there was this heavy air strike that began on Saturday," Professor Amos Guiora said.

Israel's ambassador said today that Israel's goal is to destroy Gaza's ruling Hamas movement, calling it a "terrorist gang."

As the violence continues to escalate, one Middle Eastern historian says there has got to be an international solution to a conflict that spans three generations. "This conflict between the Palestinians and Israel has got to end. It cannot go on longer and continue to fester; it's very clear to everybody involved," said Peter von Sivers, of the University of Utah Middle East Center.

Peter von Sivers
Peter von Sivers

Guiora agrees, saying it's clear the region needs the attention of the new administration. "I am one of those, based on my own professional experiences, that [believes] without the significant involvement of America in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, there will be no peace here," he said.

A peace that isn't likely to come on its own, after a senior exiled Hamas official today rejected any talk of a truce.

The Bush administration has called on Hamas to stop its repeat attacks on Israel, noting it was Hamas that broke the cease-fire agreement. But Professor von Sivers believes the Bush administration has let the Middle East conflict "simmer along without any effort at a solution," so calls for ending the violence will likely fall on deaf ears.

E-mail: lprichard@ksl.com

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