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Gulf States, Vulnerable But Influential, Seek to Stop New Iran-Israel War

FILE PHOTO: Iranian demonstrators attend an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2024. Photo: Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Gulf states are pushing to stop a full-blown regional war after Iran’s unprecedented retaliatory strikes on Israel, sources in the region said, fearing new escalation could put them on front lines of a conflagration and ruin plans to reshape the region.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in particular may be well placed to triangulate between Iran, Israel and the United States after diplomatic advances in recent years that benefited all those countries.

Allies of Washington, Gulf monarchies have sought to stabilize ties with Iran and Israel to resolve longstanding security concerns and allow them to focus on national projects.

The UAE and Bahrain signed a normalization deal with Israel in 2020 and Saudi Arabia was considering a similar agreement also involving a U.S. defense pact until the Gaza war torpedoed diplomacy. Riyadh also buried the hatchet with Iran last year after years of feuding.

However, the policy of detente now faces its greatest ever threat as the risk to wider regional peace raised by Israel’s conflict with Iran-backed Hamas in Gaza since Oct. 7 comes to a head.

A direct war between Israel and Iran could swiftly expand to Gulf states whose air space lies between the pair, and which host several military bases of the United States, which has vowed to defend its ally Israel.

“Nobody wants an escalation. Everybody wants to contain the situation,” said a Gulf source close to government circles, adding that there was probably wide telephone diplomacy under way.

“The pressure is not on Iran alone. The pressure is now on Israel not to retaliate,” said the source, adding that the fallout of an Israeli attack on key Iranian sites “will affect all the region.”

Another Gulf source with knowledge of official thinking said Gulf states, Iraq and Jordan are pushing both Iran and Israel’s main backer the United States not to escalate. Washington was already pressing Israel to show restraint, both sources said.

At the same time, the United States was using Gulf countries to convey messages to Iran not to escalate any further, the source with knowledge of official thinking added.

“It is clear that America is using Gulf Arab allies to convey messages between Iran and the Americans. Saudi Arabia is maintaining contacts with Iran and there is an understanding to contain things,” the source said.

Reuters has requested comment from both Saudi Arabia and the UAE on how they are handling the crisis.

Still, both the sources as well as analysts in the Gulf believed the most dangerous moment may have passed.

“The Iranians took their shot,” said Abdulaziz al-Sager, head of the Gulf Research Centre close to government circles, indicating that for Tehran, the escalatory phase was over, and adding that Washington did not want an escalation from Israel.


There have been many recent reminders of Gulf states’ vulnerability.

Iran on Saturday seized a cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow stretch of water through which most Gulf energy exports pass, and has threatened to close shipping lanes there entirely.

Meanwhile Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi group, against which Saudi Arabia was fighting for years until moving towards a peace deal in December, has repeatedly attacked shipping and deployed drones towards Israel skirting Saudi airspace in recent months.

The Houthis had several times attacked key Saudi Arabian energy facilities in recent years before the peace talks gained momentum last year and retain the capacity to do so again.

In 2019 they hit key facilities in Saudi Arabia that process the vast majority of the country’s crude output and in 2022 they attacked three oil tanker trucks in the UAE.

“A conflagration will see the price of oil shooting up. The traffic of oil will be affected,” the source said, describing likely outcomes of a wider regional war.

De facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has for years tried to focus on his ambitious vision to develop mega projects in the kingdom free from geopolitical distractions.

Saudi economic ambitions were at the heart of Riyadh’s push for detente with Iran, but the kingdom was also very concerned about security, said Saudi analyst Aziz Algashian.

“It’s not just about the projects in our prosperous region… It doesn’t want to be caught in the crossfire between Israel, Iran and the United States,” he said.

The war in Gaza had already put policies of entente under strain.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain made peace with Israel in 2020 through the Abraham accords and Saudi Arabia was considering following suit in return for U.S. security commitments.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Iran last year put aside decades of destructive feuding that had fueled conflicts around the region with a deal to restore diplomatic ties and avoid harming each other’s interests.

But the devastation in Gaza has derailed further moves towards peace with Israel, and Iran’s backing of regional Shi’ite Muslim allies that have targeted U.S. bases in Iraq and elsewhere has raised concerns in the Gulf.

The fact that detente might allow Gulf states to bring down regional tensions was probably regarded in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi as confirmation their policy was working, Algashian said.

“If there wasn’t Saudi-Iranian normalization and rapprochement, Saudi Arabia would be far more anxious right now,” he said.

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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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