WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. and British combat aircraft struck targets belonging to Yemen’s Houthi militia on Thursday, marking a rare and risky instance of U.S. and Western involvement in a conflict between Israel and an Arab adversary.
The Houthis, an Iran-backed militia, had been targeting Western sea vessels in the Red Sea, ostensibly to pressure Israel to cease fire in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Houthi officials said the strikes had killed five militants and wounded six.
Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the lead Pentagon spokesman, told CNN on Friday morning that the attacks were aimed at keeping the Israel-Hamas war from widening.
“What we continue to see is that the conflict between Israel and Hamas does remain contained to Gaza,” he said. “A major focus for us is to deter that conflict from broadening into a a wider regional conflict. And so what you had in the Red Sea, what we’ve seen is the Houthis indiscriminately attacking commercial shipping and mariners transiting this vital waterway, and so over 50 countries have been affected by this. So this is an international problem that required international response.”
Thursday’s strikes, carried out by U.S. and British aircraft, had the logistical and diplomatic backing of an array of countries adversely affected by Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea.
A joint statement by Australia, Bahrain, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States warned that “malign actors would be held accountable should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and the free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.”
The statement said the Houthis had carried out more than two dozen attacks on commercial vessels since mid-November, which it called “an international challenge.” It added, :Today’s action demonstrated a shared commitment to freedom of navigation, international commerce, and defending the lives of mariners from illegal and unjustifiable attacks.”
The Houthis since their establishment have been especially hostile to Israel, although Israel had nothing to do with the group’s conflict with the Saudis. They launched the raids on commercial vessels in November as a means of siding with Hamas in its war with Israel.
But the Houthis promised retaliation to Thursday’s strikes, with a Houthi spokesman saying the strikes would “not go unanswered or unpunished,” the Associated Press reported. That portends an escalation that could potentially draw the West into an Israeli-Arab war.
Such involvements have in the past had longstanding diplomatic and military repercussions. After Israel launched a war in Lebanon in 1982, a U.S.-led bid keep the peace there saw a massive Hezbollah attack on U.S. and French forces in 1983 and a withdrawal in 1984 that, according to a CIA document from 1985, preceded growing sympathy for Hezbollah among Lebanese Shiites.
The 1956 Suez War, launched against Egypt by an Israeli-British-French alliance, led to the United Kingdom and France losing influence in the Middle East, coupled with the rise of Soviet influence in the region.
Not yet clear is how the Houthis’ backers in Iran would react to Thursday’s strikes. Saudi Arabia has for years sought to unseat the Houthis after the group seized control of parts of the country from a Saudi-backed government nearly a decade ago. The Saudis, the Houthis and the Iranians are now seeking to end that conflict and are abiding by a temporary ceasefire.
President Joe Biden has robustly backed Israel in its war, although in recent weeks he has pressured the country into drawing down forces in Gaza and increasing the entry of humanitarian assistance into the strip, which world bodies have said is verging on starvation.
The Biden administration has also sought to deter Israel and Hezbollah from expanding their conflict in Lebanon. Hezbollah, which like the Houthis and Hamas is backed by Iran, and allied militias started striking targets in northern Israel at the start of the war.
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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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