The conflict between the nation of Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas has escalated into rocket attacks into Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, followed by Israeli air strikes into the West Bank.

Founder of the Montana World Affairs Council, former ambassador Mark Johnson, said the situation between the two factions "will get worse before it gets worse".

"The clash between the Jews of Israel and the Arabs of Palestine is the oldest in the Middle East, it's now in its seventh decade," Johnson said. "As I watched the developments today, its never been more deadly or dangerous, or more difficult than ever before."

Johnson said this latest outbreak of military violence stemmed from the deaths of thee Israeli teenagers, followed by the death of a Palestinian boy.

"Three weeks ago three young Israeli students were abducted and their bodies were found buried in shallow graves covered by rocks," Johnson said. "As you can imagine, this inflamed the Israeli populace. Then, just a couple of days ago, a 16 year-old Palestinian boy  was abducted and he was buried alive, so you can see the tensions at stake."

"In the last 48 hours, the air raid sirens in Israel have been going off and people had to rush into shelters," he said. "Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the West Bank, had fired about 90-plus rockets into Israel, and ominously, some of these rockets are so powerful that they can reaches places far beyond Jerusalem. The Israelis have reacted with over 200 air strikes into the West Bank to try to take out some of these terrorist cells."

I say this to you like I have before, this thing could get worse before it gets worse," Johnson said. "Prime Minister Netanyahu has indicated that Israel will take the gloves off with regards to Hamas. The minister himself said this was going to be a long engagement, and it won't be over in days. I also note that Israel has announced an intent to call up 40,000 reservists, and people speculate that there could be a ground invasion. I don't think it will come to that, but it sure sends a signal as to the seriousness of the Israeli resolve."

Johnson spent over 30 years in service in the Middle East with the U.S. State Department, and was appointed to be ambassador to Senegal. He founded the Montana World Affairs Council.

Former Ambassador Mark Johnson


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