#ISRAELHAMASWAR. Escalation in southern Lebanon. The US wants to build the anti-Houthi coalition

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Dan Shapiro, the former US ambassador to Israel, will be named the Pentagon’s top policy official for the Middle East. He will replace Dana Strole, who is leaving her post after three years as deputy assistant secretary of Defense.

According to the newspaper Le Monde: “Israel has not achieved any decisive success against Hamas for more than 70 days.” The French newspaper indicates that “Benjamin Netanyahu recklessly threw himself into the trap set for him by Hamas in Gaza… After 70 days of war aimed at eradicating Hamas, Israel has not achieved any decisive success against it.”

Egyptian security sources say Israel and Hamas are ready for a ceasefire, but disagree on the details. While the re-elected Egyptian President Al-Sisi declared that: “The war on our eastern border represents a threat to Egypt’s national security”.

In the meantime, we learn that the Israelis have arrested 35 Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem, including 3 women, the Palestinian Prisoner Information Office reported: “Israeli forces arrested 35 Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem on Monday, including 3 women ”.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that several Palestinian prisoners taken from Gaza have died in Israeli custody. People detained there are held in gated compounds with their eyes covered and hands shackled for much of the day, and the lights are on all night in their prison facilities. It is reported that more than a thousand Palestinians over the age of 15 have been taken from Gaza.

The death toll in northern Gaza is also rising. According to the Palestinian authorities, more than 18,000 deaths have occurred. Another 10,000 Palestinians are missing, presumed dead, under the rubble.

Tel Aviv announced that local elections in Israel have been postponed until at least February 2024. It became known that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to change the name of the war against Hamas, according to him “Iron Swords” is the name of a operation, not a war. Titles under consideration include “Genesis War,” “Gaza War” and “Simchat Torah War.” Netanyahu likes the name “Genesis War.” On December 18, along with Secretary of Defense Austin, Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Charles Brown also arrived in Israel.

The IDF as of December 17 says it launched a new wave of attacks against Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon in response to attacks along the border. A fighter plane and a combat helicopter hit several buildings used by Hezbollah, while a UAV hit a group of militants. Meanwhile, another plane and a tank fired on Hezbollah’s weapons and observation post, the IDF said.

An IDF tank also fired at a launch site in southern Lebanon after a rocket was fired in the Mount Dov area. Several rockets were also fired at the Rosh Hanikra area, the IDF added. The number of Israeli soldiers killed since the start of the ground operation rises and brings the official toll of the ground invasion of Gaza to 127 soldiers.

According to rumors, Israel is officially preparing to launch a large-scale attack on Lebanon. the Israeli army spokesman laid the foundation in his speech on the need to defend Israel from Lebanon, here’s what he said: “Since the Hamas massacre on October 7, Hezbollah has intensified its attacks against Israel: launching rockets, missiles and drones ; killing Israeli civilians and soldiers; and displacing over 80,000 Israelis from their homes in the North.

Since Hezbollah began its attacks, the IDF has responded by striking Hezbollah targets in Lebanon. Hezbollah – a proxy of Iran – is dragging Lebanon into an unnecessary war that would have devastating consequences for the Lebanese people. This is a war they don’t deserve.

When it comes to existential threats, let’s treat every day like it’s October 6th, so that the Hamas massacre of October 7th never happens again, on any of our borders.

The facts on the ground speak for themselves: Hezbollah’s violations of UN resolution 1701 have effectively rendered it null and void. Until an effective solution is in place – one that guarantees the safety of our people – the IDF will continue to carry out its duty: to defend the citizens of Israel and the sovereignty of Israel.

Until a diplomatic solution is found and implemented: we will continue to make the necessary preparations to remove the threat from our border.”

Also on December 18th the British Trade Operations Center reports an explosion nearby to a ship in the Bab al-Mandab Strait. The Yemenis’ final warning to America and Israel: “If you take the slightest step, we will set fire to the entire region!”

Hossein Al-Bahiti, Yemeni Houthi media activist in a statement said: “If Israel does not complete its offensive on Gaza, we will not do so either, we will raid the third phase and strike deeply into Israel, Tel Aviv and Haifa with weapons that we haven’t used it yet.” “America and the West must know that the entire Red Sea and their ships are in the crosshairs of Yemeni missiles and UAVs. Winter is coming!”.

In light of the Houthis’ statements, LNG prices in Europe increased by 7%.

On December 18 alone, about a dozen naval incidents occurred off the coast of Yemen, targeting Israeli-owned ships or those delivering supplies to it. These incidents forced global shipping companies to announce a halt to transit through that area, including oil tankers. Yemen’s indirect blockade against Israel is aimed at creating international pressure, to lift the siege and end the blockade on Gaza. In response, the US Navy is preparing for a military campaign to restore “order and security” to that area, in collaboration with the United Kingdom and other Western and Arab countries.

US efforts to foster a multinational coalition to combat the Houthi threat are facing serious challenges due to differences with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Bloomberg reports. According to the publication, during the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to the Middle East, he is expected to make a statement on Operation Prosperity Guardian to combat threats from Yemen. The declaration is expected today 19 December. The United States should launch a new coalition against Yemen

The Pentagon will announce the formation of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a new task force to protect ships from Yemeni attacks in the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea. The operation will be part of the existing Combined Maritime Force 153, a partnership of 39 nations focused on fighting piracy and terrorism in the Red Sea

In Israel’s operations to protect the borders, the November 18th cyber attack against petrol stations, while on December 17th the Israeli air force struck the outskirts of Damascus in search of Hezbollah men and Islamic Jihad militias.

And now a look at the escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict area as of December 18.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continue their operations in the Gaza Strip. In the northern part of Gaza, the Israelis have made progress in the area of Al-Yarmouk Street and the stadium of the same name. Armored vehicles are active in the Al-Qattan training center.

Heavy fighting is ongoing in the central and southern parts of the sector. Palestinian groups are firing mortars and launching homemade rockets at IDF positions, including Gaza.

The situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border remains unchanged. Hezbollah continues to attack Israeli army border crossings. In response, the IDF launched multiple artillery and air strikes, and attack and reconnaissance UAVs were used extensively. In particular, on December 18, three Israeli air attacks were reported in Naqoura, in southern Lebanon, followed by another 4 in Aita Al-Shaab. Israeli drone and artillery activity underway against the villages of Yaroun, Aitaroun and Blida in southern Lebanon. Further airstrikes reported in Ter Harfa.

Hezbollah claimed 10 attacks against the Israeli army: Birkat Risha Base at 8.30am; Soldiers near Hanita base at 9.00 am; Soldiers near Sa’Sa’ point at 9.50 am; Soldiers in Adather Forest at 10.30am; Jal Al-Allam military build-up at 1.30pm; Equipment at Duviv settlement at 2.25pm; Al-Rahib military base at 2.50pm; Army headquarters near Even Manahim settlement at 2.55pm; Avivim barracks at 3.25pm; Soldiers and vehicles near Hunin at 5.30pm

Hezbollah sources report 111 fighters dead since the start of Operation Iron Swords. 

Antonio Albanese e Graziella Giangiulio

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