US and British warplanes, ships, and submarines launched dozens of air strikes across Yemen overnight in retaliation against Iran-backed Houthi forces for attacks on Red Sea shipping, widening regional conflict stemming from Israel‘s military campaign against Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
Witnesses confirmed explosions at military bases near airports in the capital Sanaa and Yemen’s third largest city Taiz, a naval base at the main Red Sea port Hodeidah, and military sites in the coastal Hajjah governorate.
“These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation,” US President Joe Biden said.
The Houthis said five of their fighters had been killed in a total of 73 air strikes, and that they would retaliate and continue their attacks on shipping, which they describe as intended to support Palestinians against Israel.
The commander of US air operations in the Middle East, Air Force Lieutenant-General Alex Grynkewich, said 60 targets at 16 separate locations had been hit using more than 100 precision-guided munitions.
A US official said the targets were not just symbolic but intended to weaken the Houthis’ ability to attack: “We were going after very specific capability in very specific locations with precision munitions.”
In a country only just emerging from nearly a decade of war that brought millions of people to the brink of famine, morning brought long queues at petrol stations from people fearing an extended new conflict with the West.
“There is a lot of worry that the fuel shortages will repeat themselves and food supplies will be scarce,” said Ali Ahmad, 52. “We are rushing to fuel our car and we bought flour and rice in case of any emergency because we are expecting the Houthis to respond and an escalation to take place.”
PRICE OF OIL JUMPS
In Hodeidah, the main port, a resident who gave only his first name Mahmoud said troops were spreading through the streets and military vehicles were leaving barracks with security escorts.
Britain’s defense ministry said early indications were that “the Houthis’ ability to threaten merchant shipping has taken a blow.” James Heappey, a junior defense minister, said no further action was planned for now.
The price of oil rose sharply on concern that supplies could be disrupted, with Brent crude up $2 on Friday. Commercial ship tracking data showed at least four oil tankers diverting from the Red Sea.
The Houthis, an armed movement that has taken control of most of Yemen over the past decade, have been attacking shipping lanes at the mouth of the Red Sea, where 15 percent of the world’s seaborne trade passes on routes between Europe and Asia.
The United States and allies deployed a naval task force to the area in December, and the situation had escalated in recent days.
US helicopters hit Houthi forces for the first time on New Year’s Eve, sinking three boats and killing fighters attempting to board a ship. On Tuesday, the United States and Britain shot down 21 missiles and drones in what they called the biggest Houthi attack yet, directly targeting their warships.
Iran, which supports armed groups around the Middle East including both the Houthis and the Hamas terrorists that control Gaza, condemned the US and British attacks.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is in hospital due to complications from surgery, said in a statement that the strikes had targeted Houthi drones, ballistic and cruise missiles, coastal radar, and air surveillance.
FEARS OF ESCALATION
Houthi attacks on commercial ships have forced shipping lines to send vessels on a longer, costlier route around Africa, creating fears that a new bout of inflation and supply chain disruption could derail the global economic recovery.
Carmaker Tesla said delays to parts supplies from Asia due to Red Sea unrest had forced it to shut its factory in Germany for two weeks, the first big manufacturer to make such an announcement.
But Washington has had to weigh its determination to keep the shipping lane open against the risk of spreading war in the region. The strikes were the first by the United States on Yemeni territory since 2016, and the first time it has attacked the Iran-backed Houthis at such scale.
“The concern is that this could escalate,” said Andreas Krieg at King’s College in London.
Saudi Arabia called for restraint and “avoiding escalation.” The Saudis have for nearly a decade backed the opposing side in a war against the Houthis, which has lately been in a delicate state of UN-backed peace negotiations.
The United States also accused Iran of being involved operationally in the Houthi attacks, providing the military capabilities and intelligence to carry them out.
“We believe that they have been certainly involved in every phase of this,” a senior US official told reporters.
Violence has also escalated in Lebanon, the West Bank, Syria, and Iraq in the three months since Israel began its military campaign in Gaza.
Hamas terrorists, who rule the Palestinian enclave, launched the ongoing war with their Oct. 7 invasion of southern Israel, in which they massacred 1,200 people and kidnapped 240 others as hostages..
The United States has troops on the ground in Syria and Iraq, and has previously retaliated for attacks there by Iran-backed groups. Iraq’s state news agency quoted an adviser to its prime minister as saying the West was expanding the conflict.
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Brown University Investigating Threats of Violence Sent to Hillel Officials
Two officials of Brown-RISD Hillel, a Jewish life center serving both Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design, were sent “violent threats” early Sunday morning, according to a report by The Brown Daily Herald.
After being alerted of threats, which were sent via email, the university’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) conducted a search of Brown-RISD Hillel and determined there is “no evidence of any one-site threat.” DPS vice president Rodney Chatman told The Brown Daily Herald that “local, state, and federal authorities” are investigating the incident.
“This comes at an especially difficult time of distress on our campuses,” Brown University president Christina H. Paxson said in a statement addressing the incident. “Our students, faculty, and staff continue to grapple with the deaths of Israelis, Palestinians, and others in the wake of the October 7 attacks, as well as a despicable act of violence against a member of the Brown community here in the United States last November, and increases in reports of antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hate.”
In Sunday’s statement President Paxson said that “robust” security measures will be implemented to protect Brown-RISD Hillel, as well as the officials who were threatened, from harm.
The incident is not the first antisemitic act of hatred since Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.
In December, the university’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity opened an investigation into an incident in which someone slipped a threatening note underneath the door of an off-campus apartment rented by Jewish students.
“Those who live for death will die by their own hand,” said the note, which, according to the Brown Daily Herald, matches lyrics from a song by an early 1980s punk band. The paper added that the note was found by an electrician, who brought it inside.
A similar incident occurred last November at a Brown-RISD Hillel. Additionally, in 2020, a swastika was graffitied in Brown’s Hegeman Hall. In 2017, another was found in a gender-neutral bathroom at RISD. It was drawn using human feces, according to the Brown Daily Herald.
Last week, President Paxson rejected the demands of anti-Zionist students who were participating in a hunger strike in an effort to force the Brown Corporation to vote on a boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) resolution against Israel and make other concessions.
The university has twice ordered the arrests of extremist anti-Zionists student protesters, who have held unauthorized demonstrations in administration buildings, sometimes occupying them for hours after being asked to leave. Over 40 were arrested in December while onlookers shouted “Shame on Brown, Shame on Brown!”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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‘Free Palestine:’ Texas Church Shooter Suspected of Having Pro-Hamas Ideology
A woman who stormed a church in Houston, Texas, on Sunday with an AR-15 rifle and shot one person before being killed by police was apparently a Hamas supporter, according to details on the incident reported by CNN.
On Monday, the outlet reported that “Free Palestine” was written on the shooter’s rifle.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the shooter has since been identified as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36. The woman has an extensive criminal history which includes arrests for marijuana possession, assault, theft, and forgery.
On Sunday afternoon, Moreno walked into the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas — an institution famous for being the church of charismatic Christian preacher Joel Osteen — with a child and a gun. Wearing a trench coat and a knapsack, she threatened to have explosives, according to multiple reports. Most of the worshipers in attendance were Hispanic and attending a Spanish language service.
Moreno shot one man, leaving him critically injured, and was shot and killed by Houston Police. A child was also shot during the incident, but police are still unsure of whether they or Moreno are responsible for doing it.
“I want to commend those officers. She had a long gun and it could have been a lot worse,” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said during a press conference later in the day.
An investigation of Moreno’s motives is ongoing.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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London Theater Facing Legal Action After Comedy Show Turns Into ‘Antisemitic Rally’
A London theater is facing legal action after an Israeli man was hounded out of a comedy show on Saturday night by a comedian performing a one-man show that turned into what some audience members compared to an “antisemitic rally.”
A spokesperson for the UK’s Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said the group was in touch with the Israeli man and other members of the audience who fled from the theater.
“What the Jewish audience members have recounted is atrocious, and we are working with them and our lawyers to ensure that those who instigated and enabled it are held to account,” the CAA spokesperson told London’s Evening Standard news outlet. “These allegations are of deeply disturbing discriminatory abuse against Jews. Comedians are rightly given broad latitude, but hounding Jews out of theaters is reminiscent of humanity’s darkest days, and must have no place in central London in 2024.”
The comedian, Paul Currie, had been performing a one-man show entitled “Shtoom” at London’s Soho Theater. Towards the end of his performance, he retrieved a Ukrainian and Palestinian flag and invited members to stand and applaud.
After the round of applause was over, Currie pointed to a man in the second row of the theater and quizzed him over why he had not stood up.
The unnamed man, an Israeli, replied, “I enjoyed your show until you brought out the Palestinian flag.” An infuriated Currie began screaming, “Leave my show now! Get out of my f—-ing show!” in response.
As the man and his partner rose to leave, accompanied by a handful of other shocked audience members, the assembled crowd began chanting “Get out” and “Free Palestine.”
In a written complaint to the theater over his treatment, the man wrote: ” Shaken and feeling threatened by the growing antagonism, we exited and tried to complain/ get some support from the front-of-house team at the theatre, who were not very sympathetic but did give us an email address to make a complaint. By this time, the show had ended and the audience started exiting, a number of whom were glaring at us aggressively and in a very threatening way. We all left the scene.”
He added: “Our friends later received a message from someone they knew who had also been at the show, saying that after we left, the situation became even more inflamed. What had been intended to be an evening of comedy turned out to be what felt like an antisemitic rally.”
The theater eventually apologized, issuing a statement expressing regret an “an incident that took place at our venue at the end of a performance of Paul Currie: Shtoom on Saturday 10 February, which has caused upset and hurt to members of audience attending and others.” It added: “We take this very seriously and are looking into the detail of what happened as thoroughly, as sensitively, and as quickly as we can. It is important to us that Soho theatre is a welcoming and inclusive place for all.”
Currie has remained largely silent since the incident, save for a post on Instagram which quoted Mexican poet Cesar A. Cruz saying: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” He then added: “If you were at my show last night… you’ll know.”
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