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Israel-Gaza War: will the Red Sea crisis lead to WW3? By Kashif Mirza

Byadmin

Jan 4, 2024

The writer is an

economist, anchor,

analyst and the

President of All

 Pakistan Private

Schools’ Federation

president@Pakistan

privateschools.com

Escalating Israel’s attacks on Gaza are stoking fears that the Gaza conflict could engulf the Middle East into Third World War (WW3). The number of Palestinians killed in Gaza by Israeli operations since October 7 now stands at more than 22,000 including 10,000 plus children, the strip’s Hamas-run health ministry has said. It added that 56,697 Palestinians were injured during the same period. The World Health Organization (WHO) says only 13 out of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are partially functioning. The nine hospitals in the south are operating at three times their capacity while facing critical shortages of basic supplies and fuel for generators. UN agencies say 40% of Gazans – 576,600 people – have exhausted their food supplies and coping capacities and face catastrophic hunger and starvation. According to Unrwa, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, 1.9 million Gazan residents – about 85% of the population – have been displaced, and 1.4 million of them are sheltering in its facilities. Every day is a struggle for survival. Whereas, The U.S. task force, made up of several nations primarily in Europe and the Western world, under Operation Prosperity Guardian – though several partners have distanced themselves from the initiative, it’s not clear if the task force will lower the intensity of the battling. The US-led coalition warned Houthis of the consequences of Red Sea attacks. The Houthis have argued that their attacks on ships linked to Israel are an act of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza. The U.S. task force seeks to deter the Houthi threat by patrolling the Red Sea and defending merchant ships. While most countries have contributed only sailors, with just the UK and US sending ships, the aim is to make it harder for the Houthis to claim the attacks are focused solely on Israel and the US. Notably, Bahrain is the only Arab country to have joined publicly, with most seeing the economic impact as outweighed by the dangers of being seen as defending Israel. There have been at least 27 attacks on vessels the Houthis believe are linked to Israel or its allies, mostly with success.  The US military killed 10 Houthi fighters and sank three of the Yemeni armed group’s vessels after a clash in the Red Sea. This Red Sea clash was the first major direct military engagement between the US military and Houthi fighters. Britain warned it will not hesitate in taking direct action against Houthis to prevent further attacks on shipping in the stretch. The Houthis are determined in a bid to pressure Israel to stop its devastating war and siege on the Gaza Strip that has killed almost 22,000 Palestinians including 10,000 plus children with 2.1 million people have been displaced. In the meantime, Iran’s Alborz warship has entered the Red Sea, with the reports coming just hours after the US said it had sunk three ships, killing 10 Houthi fighters. This made a serious threat of escalation because the US killed Houthi fighters, not only sank Houthi boats. Such confrontations are sparking fears of a regional escalation towards WW3.

A wider Middle East war drawing in the US and Iran. Indeed, the Gaza Genocide is not about the claims of Israel protecting itself, but, this is all about oil. Indeed, IDF’s Gaza war is to get illegal possession and control of Palestinian gas, focused on the 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas discovered in 2000 off the Gaza coast, valued at $524 billion to avert the Israeli energy crisis. The notorious overwhelming Israeli propaganda machinery has tried very hard to sell its official line but in vain. Israel’s biggest failure was the attempt to make the world believe the claim that “Israel is committed to minimising civilian harm and abiding by international law”. After unsuccessful attacks and heavy Israeli military and economic damage and loss, now Israel has moved to withdraw and reduce its military presence in Gaza, bending to pressure after nearly three months of war. According to the Middle East Monitoring’s report, Hamas killed about 2,100 Israeli soldiers and the number of war-wounded Israeli soldiers is likely to reach approximately 20,000. Whereas, as per the head of the Israeli Defence Ministry’s Rehabilitation Department, 58 per cent of soldiers have sustained injuries to their limbs, including amputation. Israelis do not see the tangible results of their sons’, husbands’ and brothers’ deaths. The attitude towards losses is probably best demonstrated by the fact that the Golani Brigade, one of the army’s oldest and most decorated units, was pulled from fighting after 172 of its soldiers died in combat. Israeli forces who claimed their overwhelming military and moral superiority, proved to lack either the capabilities or the willingness to decisively destroy the Hamas tunnel network. Some economists compare the war shock to the Israeli economy to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, while others say it might be worse. Gross domestic product will fall — from forecasts of 3 per cent growth in 2023 to 1 per cent in 2024, according to the Bank of Israel. Now, Policymakers and opinion leaders are asking to Israeli government how will the cost of the failure of war influence. It’s estimated by economists that the war has cost the government about $20 billion billion — or $240 million a day. A war that lasts five to 10 more months could cost Israel as much as $50 billion, according to the financial newspaper Calcalist. That would equal 10 per cent of the country’s GDP. Same during the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. leaders familiarized Americans with the concept of blood and treasure. But after events of the past few days, that risk appears to be becoming more serious. The centre of the danger is in the Red Sea, where Houthi forces based in Yemen have been attacking freighters with real or perceived links to Israel. The Houthis are a militia group that once ruled Yemen but was marginalised, since the 1962-70 civil war. They forced the government out in a 2014 coup, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention against them and a catastrophic civil war that the UN estimated to have 377,000 deaths and displaced 4 million people by the end of 2021. The Houthis effectively won the war. An April 2022 ceasefire prompted a significant decline in violence, and fighting has largely remained in abeyance despite the official expiry of the truce in October. Most Yemenis now live in areas under the control, of Houthis now running most of the north of the country and in charge of its Red Sea coastline. The Houthis from Yemen have been targeting ships since November to show their support for Hamas. In response, many major shipping companies have stopped sending their ship through the Suez Canal. The canal is a crucial trade route between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, handling about 12% of world trade, but an increasing number of ships now take the longer and more costly route around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Seven of the world’s 10 biggest shipping companies, including BP and the German company Hapag-Lloyd, have suspended use of the Suez Canal and the Red Sea as a result of the crisis. Together with German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk operates almost a quarter of the world’s shipping fleet. While others have resumed service after the US organised a naval coalition to protect the area, many container ships are still using alternative routes, with many vessels travelling from Asia to Europe around southern Africa instead – a journey that can take up to two weeks longer. Data released by Flexport, a global logistics company, found that half of container ships were avoiding the region, representing about 18% of global container capacity. That is driving up costs – with a surcharge of about $5,000 (£3,927) per 40ft container likely to push rates to triple what they were before the crisis began. This new route is longer and costlier. While these attacks have had a fairly limited impact on the oil market so far, prices could rise if the situation continues.

The Gaza-Genocide is not about the claims of Israel protecting itself, but, this is all about oil. Indeed, IDF’s Gaza war is to get illegal possession and control on Palestinian gas, focused on the 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas discovered in 2000 off the Gaza coast, valued at $524 billion to avert Israeli energy crisis.

The US has offered protection to shipping travelling through the region, assembling a multinational naval coalition to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation. Now, as Tehran rejects calls from Washington and London to end its support for the Houthis, an Iranian destroyer has sailed into the Red Sea. Meanwhile, the UK and US, potentially with another European country, are considering a warning about strikes on military installations in Yemen. There have been at least 27 attacks on vessels the Houthis believe are linked to Israel or its allies, mostly without success. The safety of shipping in the Red Sea is important to the US and Western economy because it is an important trade route linking Asia to Europe and the US. Thirty per cent of global container traffic passes through the region, and any significant threat to its safety could have knock-on consequences for oil prices and the availability in the west of items produced in Asia. Israel is also heavily dependent on Red Sea traffic, with the vast majority of imports and exports travelling by sea. Many Yemenis see the operations as a legitimate means of exerting pressure on Israel and its allies in defence of Palestinian civilians, and the Houthis’ intervention has helped shore up their domestic support. The Houthis militia also believe attacks in the Red Sea can make them a more significant global player. Meanwhile, the Saudis are attempting to normalise relations with Iran, and finalise a peace deal that could recognise Houthi control of the north of Yemen – and are anxious about any response from the US that could complicate its effort to withdraw from the country. The US has meanwhile been constrained by Saudi Arabia’s concerns about the impact of a big attack on the Houthis on its attempts to finalise a peace deal in Yemen. And there are fears in Washington that any escalation could bolster Iranian influence in the region. Resultant, the Middle East has been slipping towards the precipice of another world war. If the threat in the Red Sea continues, shipping companies already avoiding the area are likely to continue to do so, with more following their example. Global oil prices have not yet been affected significantly by the crisis, and because of a belief that the route was reopening. Any sense that the threat is growing again with no effective exit strategy in place could prompt that change. The Houthis have shown no sign of being deterred, saying that unless humanitarian aid is allowed into Gaza and Israel stops its attacks, they will not stop harassing shipping even if America succeeds in mobilising the entire world. The safety of shipping in the Red Sea is important to the European and the US economies because it is a major trade route linking Asia to Europe and the US. Thirty per cent of global container traffic passes through the region, and any significant threat to its safety could have knock-on consequences for oil prices and the availability in the west of items produced in Asia. Israel itself is also heavily dependent on Red Sea traffic, with the vast majority of imports and exports travelling by sea. The Houthis are effectively winning the war, and many Yemenis see the operations as a legitimate means of exerting pressure on Israel and its allies in defence of Palestinian civilians. The tensions in the Red Sea are already exacting a human and economic cost. If the U.S. attacks do not change that calculus, the U.S. may finally decide to attack targets in Yemen, heightening tensions with Iran, and creating a risk of the wider confrontation. The Red Sea is a vital thoroughfare for shipborne cargo and energy exports. Worsening violence in the strategic waterway that links Europe and Asia could have far-reaching repercussions. The tensions in the Red Sea are already exacting a human and economic cost.

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