by Raffaele Crocco

The armed conflict continues. Tensions in the Red Sea escalate. The first casualties have been reported. Yemeni Houthi forces have attacked a Greek-owned merchant ship flying the flag of Barbados. Three sailors have lost their lives and the ship, called the True Confidence, is in distress in the Gulf of Aden. The immediate response from the United States and Britain was swift: two separate air strikes targeted Yemen, bombing Hodeida airport.

The sea at the entrance to the Suez Canal is becoming increasingly crowded. At least three naval missions have been deployed to reduce the risk of Houthi attacks on merchant ships. The Yemenis continue their attacks in the name of “solidarity with the Palestinian people”, targeting the ships of countries allied to Israel. This is a conflict that has its roots elsewhere but is translating into a military confrontation that risks intensifying.

In the Red Sea, the European fleet of the “Aspides” mission, approved by the Union’s foreign ministers on 19 February, is on the move. The aim is to restore maritime security in the Red Sea and the northern part of the Indian Ocean. Four ships are involved, supported by aircraft. The mission is authorised to open fire in response to suspected attacks and will last one year. The Greek Navy is in strategic command, while Italy is in operational command.

At the same time, the ships of two other missions are crossing paths in these areas: Prosperity Guardian and Atalanta. The first was set up by the United States together with other countries, including the United Kingdom. Its mandate, unlike that of Aspides, allows it to carry out attacks on Yemeni territory, as it has already done. The second, on the other hand, is another European Union mission. It’s an old mission, Atalanta (full name EuNavFor Somalia), which has been operating since 2008 to protect merchant ships from piracy off the coast of Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

To be precise, there are two other international naval missions not far away. The first is the European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASoH), which has been operational since January 2020 between the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf and involves Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal. The second is the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), initiated by 41 countries to combat piracy in major international waterways, based at the US command in Bahrain. In short, the sea is increasingly a vast chessboard, currently dominated mainly by the navies allied to the United States.

Meanwhile, in Palestine, people continue to die and the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their territories continues. The certainty that this is the real goal of the Israeli government is not only derived from the massacre in Gaza, where people continue to die without any possibility of humanitarian aid. The plan is confirmed by the news that another 3,500 homes are to be built in the West Bank – a theoretically Palestinian but increasingly isolated area – in the illegal Israeli settlements of Maale Adumim, Kedar and Efrat, not far from Jerusalem.

This is in addition to the 18,500 already approved before the war. This decision has provoked a harsh reaction from Jordan, which condemned Israel’s plans, describing them as “unilateral and illegal” measures in violation of international law. It’s important to remember that at least 100 Palestinian children have died in the West Bank in recent weeks, victims of Israeli settlers’ military actions.

Civilians remain the main victims of the global confrontation between “pro-Americans” and “anti-Americans”. In Ukraine, people are dying in cities and trenches. Russia has escalated its air strikes, despite the significant losses reported by international analysts. Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers, escorted by Su-35 multirole fighters, carry out a hundred or more sorties daily. According to European intelligence, Russian tactics have changed and the ‘more aggressive’ air support has helped Russian forces advance in eastern Ukraine.

It has been 744 days since Russia invaded Ukraine and diplomacy seems increasingly impotent. The only signal has come from China. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a briefing on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress that Beijing supports efforts “to convene promptly an international peace conference that is recognised by both Russia and Ukraine, which can ensure equal participation of all parties and fair discussion of all peace plans. Our goal – he concluded – is to find a way to start peace talks. All conflicts must end at the negotiating table: the sooner the talks begin, the sooner peace will come.”