Liberal Senator James Paterson declares Hamas remains the ‘biggest obstacle’ to achieving peace in the Middle East

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Liberal Senator James Paterson has seen Hamas as the “biggest obstacle” to achieving peace in the Middle East as he cast doubt on the effectiveness of a ceasefire in the war-torn region.

Arab leaders held urgent talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday (local time), urging an immediate end to the war between the militant group and Israel.

The senior US defense official rejected the calls, arguing that a ceasefire could give Hamas time to regroup and repeat the attacks it launched on October 7, which led to the kidnapping and killing of thousands of Israelis.

Speaking to Sky News Australia on Sunday, Mr Paterson acknowledged why demands have been made for a ceasefire.

“I understand why people are calling for a ceasefire. The images coming out of Gaza are horrific and the civilian casualties we see on the Palestinian side are completely tragic,” he said.

“But I agree with Josh Burns: I don’t think a ceasefire or a long-term humanitarian pause would achieve the goal of the people calling for it.

“The truth is that even though there are more than 200 hostages, Israeli hostages, being held in Gaza, this war will continue and cannot end.

“And as long as Hamas ever remains in control of the Palestinian people in Gaza, this war will continue because they can never be safe, and Israel can never be safe as long as Hamas continues to use those nearly two million innocent civilians as human shields.”

The shadow home secretary then described Hamas as the “biggest obstacle” to peace in the region.

“The reality is that Hamas is the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East,” he said.

“I absolutely understand why Israel, as a sovereign nation that just a month ago suffered the greatest loss of Jewish lives since the Holocaust, will continue to exist until that threat is removed, as it should be.

Pressing the rising death toll among Palestinian civilians involved in the conflict, Mr Paterson said Israel must ensure casualties are kept to a minimum.

“It is important that Israel and the IDF as a liberal democracy do everything they can to minimize civilian casualties, no one wants to see civilian casualties,” he said.

However, he pointed to Hamas’ strategy to position its bases and military assets in densely populated areas.

“They are being exacerbated and they are much larger than they would otherwise be, because of Hamas’s deliberate strategy to settle in civilian areas, including in refugee camps, including building a network of tunnels under hospitals and schools,” Mr. Paterson.

“Because they know this makes it harder for the IDF to attack them.”

Hamas has reportedly built a “web” of concrete tunnels deep beneath the Gaza Strip, some of which are reportedly more than a kilometer long.

The IDF has mainly used airstrikes to target the network of underground passages, hitting the area more than 12,000 times since the conflict began three weeks ago.

However, Israel’s plan to eradicate Hamas has also led to the destruction of buildings and critical civilian infrastructure in the enclave.

The combined death toll from the violence is estimated at almost 7,000, although the exact figures remain disputed.

The rising number of fatalities has prompted humanitarian agencies to demand an immediate end to the warfare.

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