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Does the EU Response to Houthi Terror Attacks Predict Further EU Appeasement Towards Iran?

Houthi military helicopter flies over the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea in this photo released Nov. 20, 2023. Photo: Houthi Military Media/Handout via REUTERS

The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict contains a maritime dimension in the Red Sea. The Houthi offensive, ostensibly directed against Israel, is not only targeting Israel itself but also commercial and passenger ships under several flags, thereby creating a critical international strategic challenge. The EU has decided to respond by launching Operation ASPIDES.

Unlike the US- and UK-led Operations Prosperity Guardian and Poseidon Archer, ASPIDES is not attacking Houthi targets but intercepting their strikes. While this wholly defensive approach can play a useful role in protecting vessels and can contribute to deterrence, it concerns the Israelis, who fear that the EU’s limited response to the Houthi threat reflects a similar stance toward Iran.

On February 19, 2024, the EU announced the launch of Operation ASPIDES. Named after the Greek word for “shields,” the operation aims to safeguard maritime security and ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. Its purpose is to protect vessels from multi-domain attacks at sea conducted by the Houthi rebels. ASPIDES is a defensive operation, meaning it will respond to attacks but refrain from striking Houthi targets.

ASPIDES has an initial duration of a year and a budget of €8 million. Four frigates — the German Hessen, the Greek Hydra, the French Alsace, and the Italian Caio Duilio — are participating, as well as an aerial asset. ASPIDES is run from a military base in Larissa, a city in central Greece. The operation commanders are Greek Commodore Vasileios Gryparis and Force Commander Italian Real Admiral Stefano Constantino. A recent press release revealed that 35 merchant ships were protected by ASPIDES in its first month of operation. This was accomplished by shooting down eight unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and repelling three other UAV attacks.

Before the launch of ASPIDES, four EU member states, namely France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, had started — at least partly — to participate in Operation Prosperity Guardian in the Red Sea. This US/UK-led mission was announced in December 2023 and is supported by Bahrain, Canada, Norway, and the Seychelles. Two additional EU member states, Denmark and Greece, joined later and decided to provide warships.

Several European frigates have been assigned tasks in the area that are arguably associated with both ASPIDES and Prosperity Guardian. France, for instance, has sent the frigate Languedoc to the Red Sea, and Italy has sent naval ship Virginio Fasan. Reportedly, the Netherlands has dispatched its Tromp frigate. Only the Netherlands, however, is directly involved in both Prosperity Guardian and Poseidon Archer.

The Netherlands has participated in the organization and implementation of US/UK-led strikes against a number of Houthi targets in Yemen (Poseidon Archer). On one such occasion, on January 11, 2024, President Joe Biden acknowledged the Dutch contribution, along with that of Australia, Bahrain, and Canada. Strikes of this kind were regularly conducted throughout the first third of 2024. The names and number of participating nations differ, as this is a coalition of the willing. Denmark provided support for several strikes on 24 February.

In the words of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the US-UK action “is based on the right of self-defense.” The Netherlands, which has a long history as a sea-faring nation, places great importance on the right of free passage and is demonstrating that commitment with its participation in the Red Sea. But many believe that Rutte’s decision to take part is linked, at least to some degree, with his candidacy for the position of NATO Secretary General.

The stance of Denmark can likely be explained by its interest in protecting the shipping giant Maersk, which is based in that Scandinavian country. Maersk’s vessels have been hit by the Houthis.

Irrespective of Dutch and Danish motivations, not all EU member states agree that the US-UK strikes are necessary. Importantly, France, Italy, and Spain have distanced themselves from the American leadership as they fear a new round of escalation. France and Italy prefer that their frigates remain under national command in the Red Sea. For its part, Spain is linking its potential involvement in the Red Sea to a European or a NATO umbrella. Further to this, Madrid has been critical of Israel’s war in Gaza from the outset, and this likely contributed to its decision to preserve some autonomy.

Disagreements among various EU member states and the US on how to respond to Houthi attacks reveal their different understanding of Middle Eastern affairs. Some foresee a “worrisome transatlantic rift” while others doubt that a defensive European mission can bring positive results in the Red Sea. But what matters more is the extent to which different operations can complement each other and if some degree of coordination is feasible. The EU has experience in implementing a maritime strategy in the area. Operation Atalanta was set up in 2008 to fight piracy in the northwestern Indian Ocean, while Operation Agenor was launched in 2020 to ensure safe navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.

An Atlantic Council essay argues that the rather mild European approach in the Red Sea, as reflected in ASPIDES, could help the EU better engage with some Arab states. According to the essay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE might find it politically easier to support the EU operation than the American one. Although prognostications are risky for a naval operation that remains limited in scope, it does seem likely that the limited approach of ASPIDES will do little to repair strained EU-Israeli ties. Even if Jerusalem agrees with the complementary character of ASPIDES with respect to Prosperity Guardian, it will be wary. The Financial Times has reported that the EU, France, Germany and Italy are endeavoring to persuade other member states never to enter into a confrontation with Iran. Naturally, the Jewish State does not perceive the Iranian threat the way the Europeans do.

Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos is a BESA contributor, a lecturer at the European Institute of Nice (CIFE) and at the Democritus University of Thrace, and a Senior Fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

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Assault charge laid, arrest made related to incident near the University of Toronto encampment—while its president speaks in Ottawa on antisemitism, and the school seeks a removal injunction

Toronto Police have arrested and charged a man for assault over an incident May 9 near the protest encampment at the University of Toronto’s King’s College Circle on its downtown campus.  Toronto Police Services (TPS) say they responded at 3:45 p.m. that day to a call for assault in the area of the road around […]

The post Assault charge laid, arrest made related to incident near the University of Toronto encampment—while its president speaks in Ottawa on antisemitism, and the school seeks a removal injunction appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘Any Chance the Media Would Cover This?’ New Video Shows Terrorists in Gaza Using Humanitarian Aid to Help Prepare Rockets

Terrorists in Gaza using humanitarian aid bags to prop up rockets. Photo: Screenshot

Terrorists in Gaza have been using humanitarian aid bags to prop up rockets they were preparing to shoot at Israelis, new video circulating on social media reveals, underscoring the challenges of delivering aid to Palestinian civilians in the Hamas-ruled enclave without it being stolen.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade — which is the armed wing of Fatah, the political party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbasused bags from Turkey and UNRWA — the UN agency responsible for the Palestinians — to prop up the rockets, according to the video.

At least three of the bags say they contain “wheat flour,” and the bag from Turkey specifically says it is supposed to go “to the Palestinian people.” It is unclear whether the bags had previously been opened to extract the food and then refilled with sand, for example, or if it still contained the food that was intended to feed Palestinian civilians.

“Any chance the media would cover this, yet another violation of international humanitarian law?” pro-Israel commentator Hen Mazzig wrote on X/Twitter while sharing the video.

Rafah, Gaza: Hamas is using UN humanitarian aid bags as rocket launchers today.

Any chance the media would cover this, yet another, violation of International Humanitarian Law?

— Hen Mazzig (@HenMazzig) May 29, 2024

Almost every day for the past seven months, Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist organizations have been shooting rockets into Israel from civilian areas, which is a war crime. Tens of thousands of Israelis are internally displaced and unable to return to their homes as a result.

There is mounting evidence that Hamas has also operated in civilian clothing and in civilian infrastructure such as hospitals. However, these violations of international law are rarely noted by much of the media.

The latest video of terrorists using humanitarian aid for military purposes underscores the issue of making sure such aid gets to Palestinian civilians. 

The US built a pier to deliver 2,000,000 meals daily to Palestinian civilians, but after a few weeks of operation, the Pentagon said none of the aid unloaded from the pier had made it to those who needed it. On one occasion, about 70 percent of the aid has been stolen while en route to a UN warehouse. In other cases, it just never showed up.

Israeli estimates suggest approximately 60 percent of the aid that has gone into Gaza has been stolen — either by Hamas or other groups and individuals. Oftentimes, that aid is then sold to the population at high prices, making it difficult to impossible for most Gazans to gain access to it. 

According to Ehud Yaari, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Hamas has made more than $500 million in profit from selling humanitarian aid since Oct. 7.

The terror group began the war last October by massacring 1,200 people in Israel and taking more than 250 people hostage, about half of whom have still not been released.

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Columbia University Anti-Zionist Group Endorses Hamas

Demonstrators take part in an anti-Israel demonstration at the Columbia University campus, in New York City, US, Feb. 2, 2024. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has endorsed Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization, the latest sign of its growing extremism and willingness to embrace antisemitic violence.

“The Palestinian resistance is the only force materially fighting back against isr*el [sic],” the group said in a series of posts shared by Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus, a social media account which exposes antisemitism on college campuses. “There is no way to eliminate the resistance without ending the occupation. When you see a video of a young palestinian [sic] boy traumatized in a hospital talking about how iof [the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF] shot his pregnant mother in cold blood in front of his own eyes, do not question how he chooses to resist years later.”

.@Columbia and @BarnardCollege, @ColumbiaSJP is actively promoting terrorism and anti-Israel rhetoric on their social media channels. They are sounding more and more like Hamas spokespeople every day. When is the university going to permanently ban this “student group”?

— Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus (@CampusJewHate) May 26, 2024

Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog which first reported Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus’ posts, noted that Columbia SJP has added an “inverted red triangle” to its social media biography, further indicating its support for Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group has used an inverted red triangle in its propaganda videos to indicate an Israeli target about to be attacked, and anti-Israel protesters on university campuses have been using the symbol in their demonstrations.

Columbia SJP, a group that has reformed under multiple organizations since being suspended by school administrators during the fall semester, has been central in staging a slew of riotous demonstrations in which anti-Zionist activists verbally assaulted Jewish students with antisemitic epithets, clamorously expressed support for terrorism and Hamas, and caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property.

The group’s behavior after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the StandWithUs Center for League Justice (SCLJ).

The complaint alleges that after bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, the pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library, according to the lawsuit. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.

Following the incidents, pleas for help allegedly went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while SJP held its demonstrations. The school’s apparent powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events while no one explained the inconsistency.

The explosion of end-of-year protests held by the group forced Columbia officials to shutter the campus in April and institute virtual learning. Later, the group occupied Hamilton Hall, forcing President Minouche Shafik to call on the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for help, a decision she hesitated to make. According to The Columbia Spectator, over 108 arrests were made.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!”

Amid the chaos, a prominent rabbi at the school urged Jewish students to leave the campus for the sake of their safety. Ultimately, the university cancelled its main commencement ceremony.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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