China Has Up To 6 Warships In Mideast Waters As US Carrier Group Moves Closer To Israel

Israel’s military has announced Saturday that it drastically stepped up airstrikes in preparation for its “next stage” of the operation against Gaza, in a statement many see as portending an imminent ground invasion.

“We need to enter under the best possible conditions and this is what we are doing now, as the next stage of war approaches,” IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari explained after confirming, “from today, we are increasing the strikes and minimizing the danger.”

“We will narrow the risks to our forces over the next stages. This is why we have once again urged residents of Gaza to keep moving south,” he added, in words that Israeli media also took to mean a ground assault is about to happen.

Xinhua via AP

One big development from earlier in day was that 20 large trucks loaded with humanitarian aid were for the first time allowed to pass into Gaza through the Rafah crossing from Egypt. 

Controversy was then sparked by a New York Times report which claimed the aid convoy was not checked by inspectors before it went into the strip, amid allegations that weapons or ammo could be hidden in the convoy. Israel has denied the report, however

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories denies that aid entering the Gaza Strip was not checked before going in.

“All of the equipment was checked before going into Gaza,” it says in a statement, noting that the shipment included “only water, food and medical equipment.”

“We emphasize that Israel is able to make sure that nothing goes in or out except the aforementioned,” it adds.

Fears are now growing that Hezbollah could fully enter the conflict, with widespread speculation that the well-armed Shia paramilitary group backed by Iran is ready to mount a full attack on northern Israel if the IDF launches a ground assault on the Gaza Strip. So far there has only been sporadic by intensifying rocket and mortar fire from south Lebanon.

US warships and at least one carrier are in the region (with a second carrier headed that way), as part of “support” operations – but the whole region is on edge given the possibility of a Middle East-wide bigger conflagration. 

Worrisomely other major global powers are bolstering their presence, particularly ones which have of late issued severe criticisms of Israel’s largescale aerial assault on Gaza (namely Russia and China), which has killed thousands of civilians – many women and children among them. Russia has been operating jet patrols over Syria, and importantly China now has additional warships in the Mideast region.

Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post has confirmed that up to six Chinese warships have been in Middle East waters over the last week.

“The 44th naval escort task force has been involved in routine operations in the area since May and last week spent several days on a visit to Oman, including a joint exercise with the country’s navy, according to the Chinese defense ministry website,” the report says.

While the warships’ presence off Oman is being presented as “routine” – it seems clear the Chinese PLA Navy is going to stick around, given fast-moving events in Israel-Gaza. Days ago, Beijing’s foreign ministry urged all Chinese citizens to make plans to depart Israel while international flights are still available. Are Chinese warships now headed to the Mediterranean?

The Biden White House has reportedly been urging Netanyahu to hold off on the invasion to give more time to negotiate for hostages, after two Americans were released Friday…

This weekend, all eyes will remain on both Gaza and south Lebanon, as the major powers of the US, Russia, and China keep their military assets on the ready. Iran is also no doubt watching events closely, with Iranian officials having in the last days made key visits to regional capitals Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut. There’s also fear in Tehran of the potential for an Israeli preemptive attack on Iranian nuclear and military facilities, which Israeli leaders have threatened before.


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