by Raffaele Crocco

The line of tanks defines the future. In Rafah, you can see it very clearly: they are the tanks of the Israeli army. They have been sent to take control of the crossing: no one passes through, not even the few humanitarian aid workers. Anticipation of the Israeli offensive, which has been announced and is now underway, is growing and worrying. Military experts say that only four brigades of the Hamas military force are still intact and in combat gear. The problem is that they are mixed in with the one-and-a-half million defenceless civilians who have arrived in Rafah, fleeing 28 weeks of Israeli attacks. They risk being massacred. UN agencies estimate that 630,000 children are at risk of their lives in the event of an attack. 

There is hope for a ceasefire. On the night of Wednesday to Thursday of the 28th week since the beginning of the military operations, the Hamas delegation returned from Cairo to Doha, Qatar. Izzat Al-Rishq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, declared that “the movement confirms its commitment and adherence to its position by accepting the document presented by the mediators.” Instead, the Israeli government will convene the war and security cabinet to decide what to do. Also weighing on Tel Aviv is the decision by US President Joe Biden to make the supply of military equipment conditional on the continuation of defensive, but not offensive, operations in the event of an Israeli incursion into Rafah. This decision has led to a clash with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “If necessary, we will do it ourselves,” he said. The protests on US and European campuses have also entered the game. In France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, students have set up camps of tents inside or outside university buildings, even occupying some. As in the US, they are demanding that universities not only strongly call for a ‘ceasefire’, but also break off and change their relations with Israeli universities.

The invasion of Ukraine continues as well. President Zelensky is looking for a ray of optimism to stop the slow but inexorable Russian advance in the south-east of the country. He is pinning all his hopes on the new US military aid package. “With increased arms supplies,” he explains, “we will be able to stop them in the east. They have the initiative there, it’s no secret. We must stop them and take the initiative ourselves. He was speaking in Kyiv at a joint press conference with the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola. We have to save our Europe,” Zelensky added.

In Moscow, meanwhile, more than 9,000 soldiers marched on Red Square on 9 May to celebrate the victory over Nazism in the Great Patriotic War. A day that is a real ‘highlight’ in Putin’s symbolism. Weapons were also displayed and planes were flown. The Russian defence ministry made it clear that of the soldiers paraded, “more than 1,000 are taking part in the special military operation” in Ukraine. For Putin, the war against Kiev is not yet a war. It remains an operation of ‘cleansing from Nazism.”

Meanwhile, bombardments of Ukrainian cities have increased over the week. Civilians are under increasing pressure, while the army’s ranks are dwindling due to casualties. The word ‘negotiation’ remains a forbidden word in this risk-taking between ‘pro-Americans’ and ‘anti-Americans’ for control of trade and resources. In the Red Sea, the Yemeni Houthis continue to attack European and US ships in the name of solidarity with the Palestinians. In the last few hours, three anti-ship missiles and three UAVs were fired at a Greek-owned ship and a European merchant vessel. The European military mission Aspide has so far repelled eleven attacks and deterred 68 ships. The outlook is bleak. The Danish shipping giant Maersk has issued a note saying that transport capacity between Asia and Europe could fall by up to 20%, leading to a massive increase in costs. 

All shipping companies are avoiding the Red Sea and therefore the Suez Canal, and the Houthis went so far as to attack an MSC ship more than 300 miles east of Somalia. It is a crisis that seems never-ending, and that breeds other crises. In Panama, for example, a fierce struggle for power and control of the canal seems to have begun, which could fall into Russian hands in the coming months. This would be a fatal and unacceptable blow to the United States. Further afield, in Asia, the game is being played around the Strait of Malacca: 12% of the world’s goods pass through it, and control of this arm of the sea is fundamental to those, like China, who seek safe and controlled routes for their goods. The game is becoming more complex. The number of players in the field is growing, and the risk that no one knows how to control escalation is increasing by the day.