by Raffaele Crocco

The number is horrifying. The civilian death toll in Gaza since the start of the Israeli offensive in October 2023 is 34,000. The wounded number 80,000. These are horrifying figures that give an accurate profile of the systematic massacre launched by the Israeli government. The response to the Hamas attack of 7 October was extremely harsh and aimed, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, at a ‘final solution’ for Gaza.

The annihilation of the Palestinians in the Strips is measured in the 13,800 children killed so far. The figure comes from UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell. “A child is injured or killed every 10 minutes,” the UN agency for gender equality and the empowerment of women wrote in a note. More than 10,000 women have been killed since 7 October, leaving 19,000 children orphaned.

Despite the now constant pressure from the allies for a permanent ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid, the Israeli government appears inflexible. The pressure on the Palestinians is also manifesting itself in the West Bank, where Israeli settlers are effectively invading Palestinian land. Here, too, violence is a daily occurrence, protected by the Israeli army. Netanyahu has authorised new settlements on Palestinian Authority land, effectively fuelling the hatred. Fabio Buccciarelli, an Italian photojournalist who also works in Palestine for the Atlas of World Wars, explains that the Palestinians’ hatred of any foreigner has become palpable, and concrete. It is as if they see everything from Europe or the United States as an enemy.

Hatred, then, is the hallmark of the Near East these weeks. A hatred that multiplies the possibilities of an all-out war. In the north of Israel, Hezbollah, an ally of Iran, is bombing Israeli positions from Lebanon. All this while the dangerous tug-of-war between Tel Aviv and Tehran continues. After the Iranian bombing of Israel, which Tehran wanted as a ‘response’ to the Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, Netanyahu promised retaliation (yesterday morning, the Iranian central city of Isfahan was hit by Israeli drones without disastrous consequences, ed).

According to many observers, the Iranian attack was effectively neutralised by the Israelis for two reasons. The first is the massive air cover provided by the United States, Britain and France, which intervened directly. The second, and most important, is the Iranian choice of a ‘symbolic’ rather than a militarily concrete response, allowing Israel to defend itself. The proof would be in the speed with which Tehran declared to the world that it “considers this attack to be the end of the matter.”

The Netanyahu government disagrees, announcing an “appropriate response at the right time.” A threat that the Iranian leadership has taken seriously, announcing that “Iran may revise its nuclear doctrine in the face of Israeli threats.” Until now, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has always maintained that Tehran has never pursued the construction or use of nuclear weapons, which are forbidden by religion. A position that could be revised.

Meanwhile, the international community is dancing around the table. China supported the UN motion calling for Palestine to become a full member of the UN. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has caused a humanitarian catastrophe. An unconditional ceasefire and a humanitarian relief mechanism should be established as soon as possible to prevent further escalation of the situation.” The motion failed to pass due to a veto by the United States, which, together with the United Kingdom, has since announced new sanctions against Iranian individuals or entities.

Not far away, in the Red Sea, the Yemeni Houthis continue to attack merchant ships. Several international missions have been sent to protect shipping. The European mission is called ‘Aspides’: according to Greek Rear Admiral Vassilios Gryparis, it should be reinforced. Four frigates from Greece, Germany, France and Italy now make up the expedition. To date, they have protected 79 vessels, neutralised 9 drones, 1 unmanned surface vessel and 4 ballistic missiles.

Further afield, but in the world game of Risk that pits ‘pro-American’ against ‘anti-American’, in Ukraine, the Russian army is attempting to break through the Ukrainian defences at Chasiv Yar, about twenty kilometres west of Bakhmut. The Ukrainian troops are badly outnumbered and short of ammunition. If the breakthrough succeeds, Moscow would be on the verge of occupying the entire Donbas.

The collapse of the Ukrainian front would be possible and imminent, according to some British military analysts. Not because of a lack of jets or tanks, but because of the impossibility of replacing human losses. Kyiv is struggling increasingly to find men and women to send to the front. There is also a widespread feeling among the Ukrainian public that Europe is now distracted by events in the Near East. Observers say that pessimism and a sense of isolation are growing. Two states of mind that are not conducive to resistance.