Day 76 of the war in Israel dawned with the casualty count of Israeli losses in battle now at 137 although with a total of 469 soldiers dead since October 7th along with 11,485 injured. 134 hostages remain in Gaza, 129 taken on October 7th plus the 4 captured previously.
The Tel Aviv area was hit by a massive barrage of rockets on Thursday. In the latest barrage of at least 30 rockets fired from Gaza at central and southern Israeli cities, shrapnel from a rocket fell on a school in Tel Aviv. The school said that all the children made it on time to protected areas and were not injured. In the north, two anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon toward the northern Israeli border community of Avivim on Thursday, one of them hitting a parked car, causing extensive property damage. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Regarding the potential release of additional hostages. the top political leader of Hamas held talks with Egyptian officials on Wednesday about a possible truce, as the UN Security Council worked frantically to craft a resolution to suspend the fighting that would not draw a veto from our staunchest ally, the United States. Diplomats at the U.N. Security Council were engaged in their own intense negotiations in New York on Wednesday over a resolution that would call for extended pauses in the war, allow more aid into Gaza by land, air and sea, and urge the immediate release of all the hostages being held by Hamas. After delays a vote is now not expected until this morning, Thursday, at the earliest.
Representatives of Israel and Hamas were negotiating separately via mediators from Egypt and Qatar on a new cease-fire that could lead to the release of people taken hostage in Israel in a Hamas-led attack on Oct 7th. An Israeli official said some progress had been made, but emphasized there was no deal yet.
As for Yemen’s activity in the region, which has impacted shipping activities worldwide, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated on Monday that “Iran’s support for Houthi attacks on commercial vessels must stop.” But what if the Houthis in Yemen backed by Iran continue to fire at oil tankers and other ships? What does “must stop” mean? That’s the multi-billion-dollar question as the US rolls out Operation Prosperity Guardian in the Red Sea. Secy. Austin says the goal of the coalition of at least 10 nations is designed to protect “freedom of navigation for all countries” while “bolstering regional security.” He called the Houthi threat an “international challenge that demands collective action.” The coalition includes the Netherlands, Spain and Canada, though Bahrain so far appears to be the only Middle East participant.
The effort is worthwhile, as more than 10% of global trade moves through the Red Sea. Maersk, BP, Hapag- Lloyd, CGM Group and other firms have stopped sending ships through the Red Sea because of the Houthi attacks. This week Malaysia announced that it was not going to let ships destined for Israeli ports to dock in that country as well. The Houthis claim to be registering their displeasure about the war in Israel, but they’ve launched 100 drone and ballistic-missile attacks aimed at Israel according to the Pentagon’s tally. US Navy destroyers have intercepted such attacks, with the USS Carney having shot down 14 drones over the last weekend. A merchant crew of 25 taken hostage on Nov. 19 is still “unjustly detained in Yemen,” the Pentagon says.
All of this shows that the Houthis and their Iranian backers have already succeeded in their goal of damaging Western interests. They’ve forced the world to deploy scarce naval assets to defend commercial shipping. Yet they have paid no political or military price for this modern piracy. It remains unclear what the coalition will do if their warnings are not heeded. The fact that an Iranian-backed rogue force from a backwater country like Yemen can have such a dramatic effect on world commerce should be seen as yet another wakeup call that the balance of power in the world has now shifted to a greater degree than anyone would have expected and in a frighteningly short period of time.
To get a better sense of how this all came about it is worth watching Aysan Hirsi Ali’s presentation last week in Palm Beach, Florida.
You may recall that she is the young woman who was raised as a traditional Muslim in Somalia, escaped to the Netherlands to avoid an arranged marriage that she found threatening, and later renounced Islam and its prejudicial positions vis-à-vis non-Muslims. It is a sobering recital of how what we are seeing today is simply the outcome of well laid plans and strategies to conquer the world that should be a wakeup call to all of us. Let us hope it is still not too late to neutralize the threat to all of us who value personal freedom.