It was unthinkable that the world’s best spy agency, the Israeli Mossad, failed to stop a deadly incursion from Islamist militants operating in the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds of Israelis were killed in the incursion and the massive rocket attacks on Israeli cities.

Israel responded with air strikes on Gaza, killing hundreds of Palestinians and destroying what was believed to be Hamas safe houses and laboratories.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of war and called up army reserves, asking civilians to arm and protect themselves from Palestinian gunmen who crossed the borders.

US President Joe Biden supported Israel, promising military aid and justifying its right to defend itself and its people.

The sneak attack came as the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia negotiated a defense agreement to protect the kingdom against its enemies in exchange for establishing ties with Israel.

Washington was also discussing with Jerusalem some concessions to the Palestinians to help the improve security situation in the region.

But the US-Saudi Arabia-Israel deals could isolate Teheran-backed Hamas and Iran itself, although there were separate talks with the Saudis to normalize relations.

But, it was unclear what really triggered the attack and why Israel failed to detect the threats from the Sunni Islamist militants.

Hamas, founded in 1987, was declared a terrorist organization in the US and most Western states but not in China.

Could this be another extension of the proxy war between rivals the US and China? What could be Russia’s role in the conflict?

Iran’s role was very much obvious.

The Philippines might be half the world away from the Middle East, where the conflict was raging, but it could be affected as thousands of Filipinos work in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

More than 2 million Filipinos are working in the Middle East, half in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Any conflict in the region would have a direct effect on the Philippines. Not only to overseas workers but on fuel products as the country remained dependent on oil supply from the region.

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr realized the geopolitical risks in the 1970s, forcing him to seek peace talks with Muslim guerrillas in the south with the help of Arab states in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia and Libya.

The Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front agreed to a ceasefire and an agreement to grant autonomy to 13 Muslim-dominated provinces in Mindanao in 1976.

When a peace agreement was finally signed in 1996 under the late President Fidel Ramos, only five provinces were left to comprise the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

When another peace deal was signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was signed in 2014, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was created, adding Cotabato City and Isabela City in Basilan to the region.

The Philippines and Israel also have close relations.

Filipinos are not required to obtain visas to visit Israel as it repaid what Manila did in the Second World War, when it allowed Jewish refugees to settle in the Philippines.

Israel is one of the top sources of military equipment, from armored vehicles, coastal boats, drones, and surface-to-air missiles.

More than strategic oil supply, contract workers, arms deals, and peace in Mindanao, security and stability in the Middle East are important for devout Roman Catholics and other members of the Christian sects in the Philippines.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Filipino Catholics and other Christian denominations flock to Israel and Palestine every year for pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

Christian pilgrims also visit these historic and religious places, praying at the Jewish wailing walls near the Al-Aqsa mosque.

These pilgrims also come from other Christian countries worldwide as Catholics, Orthodox, Coptics, and other Christian sects visit churches, shrines, and other religious sites in Israel and Palestine.

For decades, a peaceful and harmonious coexistence prevailed in the pilgrimage sites, attracting ordinary tourists and fueling the local souvenir industry.

They traced the life, passion, and death of Jesus Christ from his birth in Nazareth in modern-day Palestine to his ministry around the Sea of Galilee in modern-day Israel to his passion and death in Jerusalem — the center of the world’s three greatest religions.

Jews, Muslims, and Christians share a common heritage around an area where an old and destroyed temple and a magnificent mosque stand where Jews and Muslims worship.

The al-Aqsa mosque was also the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the West Bank, although the latest conflict centered on the Gaza Strip.

Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from the sea and tunnels as rockets rained on Israeli cities and settlements.

The safety and protection of Filipinos in Israel and the Gaza Strip is the utmost concern of the Philippine embassy.

Although there were reports about Filipinos caught in the crossfire, the embassy was still verifying reports there were Filipino nationals killed or kidnapped by Hamas militants.

Hopefully, Filipino contract workers and Christian pilgrims are all safe in Israel and Palestine.

The US and its Middle East partners, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey, must see to it that the conflict does not escalate and spread to other areas beyond Israel and the Gaza Strip.

They must make sure it does not become a wider conflict similar to the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars.

Food and fuel prices have rocketed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The world does not need another global geopolitical problem, a broader conflict in the Middle East, which could create more significant humanitarian crises, seriously affecting the Philippines.