Former Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, still very much involved in the organization’s leadership, spoke on Egyptian television about how its terrorist operations have benefitted Moscow.
For your information, Russia has benefitted from our [attack], because we distracted the U.S. from them and from Ukraine. China saw [our attack] as a dazzling example. The Russians told us that what happened on October 7 would be taught in military academies. The Chinese are thinking of carrying out a plan in Taiwan, doing what the Al-Qassam Brigades did on October 7. The Arabs are giving the world a master class.
It certainly is believable that Russia would “study” a terrorist attack directly serving no broader strategic purpose. And no, China has nothing to learn from what Hamas has done. But as a whole, the statement is right about one thing—the authoritarian anti-Western world is benefiting from the chaos each of them causes. That’s one of the reasons, perhaps the biggest reason, why Ukraine is so important to the free world.
Still, I was a bit glib up above. Russia’s targeting of civilians hasn’t served any strategic purpose, certainly, but Hamas’ butchery has. It stopped normalization talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia, halting momentum toward regional peace after successes with Morocco, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (joining Egypt and Jordan). It also squashed rapprochement between Israel and Turkey after 14 years of broken diplomatic relations. Furthermore, the attacks have inflamed passions in Western countries for and against each side in the conflict, adding societal stressors that Russia is keen to exacerbate. The Arab world was moving toward peace, and Hamas didn’t want to be left behind, clinging to its refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Their terrorist attack, along with Israel’s indiscriminately harsh response, have paused all that for the near future.
Even as some students on college campuses and the old guy on my street corner celebrate paragliders murdering kids at a music peace festival, no one in the region wants anything to do with Hamas.
Israel gets all the grief for blockading Gaza, but no one nearby wants Gaza to export Hamas’ brand of violent Islamic fundamentalism. Egypt shares a border with the territory, yet it has also blocked all crossing points, going so far as to destroy smuggling tunnels running underneath their border. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank refuses to grant Gazans travel documents. Marzouk doesn’t name names beyond the Palestinian Authority, but the Arab world’s anti-Iran bloc (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf emirates) would be ecstatic to see Hamas gone.
Meanwhile, Russia is gleeful at all this chaos.
Pro-Putin Republicans in the House are trying to use Israel as an excuse to pull back support for Ukraine, and too many useful idiots are playing along. There are material consequences as well. For example, the United States diverted tens of thousands of desperately needed artillery shells destined for Ukraine to Israel. As Western arms storages remain depleted after over a year and a half of war in Ukraine, and ammunition manufacturing hasn’t caught up to the demand, Israel’s needs only worsen the crisis. The resulting “pick one or the other” argument benefits Russia either way. Either Israel gets the extra equipment and Ukraine is starved of the material it needs to eject Russia, or Ukraine gets the equipment, which helps Hamas and Russia’s closest ally, Iran, continue to sow chaos in the region.
Meanwhile, in Dagestan, a mob stormed an airport hunting for Jews aboard an inbound flight from Tel Aviv, Israel.
It’s no accident that the word pogrom, defined by Oxford as “an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group, in particular that of Jewish people in Russia or eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” is a Russian word.
Dagestan is one of the poorest regions in Russia, and not coincidentally, it has delivered a disproportionate number of conscripts for the war in Ukraine. What better way to distract from rising anger and discontent than to blame everything on the Jews? So people who are not allowed to protest the systemic erasure of their youth are given open permission to hunt Jewish people.
Russian war propagandist and actual real-life Nazi Alexander Kots was upset at the riots, but for all the wrong reasons: “If you want to kill Jews, go to Gaza or Kyiv.”
Israel refused to provide meaningful support to Ukraine in a bid to maintain friendly relations with Moscow. The two countries had a wink-wink understanding that Ukraine stayed out of Moscow’s affairs in Europe, and in turn, Russian air defense systems in Damascus would remain blind to Israeli air strikes.
Given the current situation, it doesn’t look like that status quo will hold. And Russia better root for a protracted Gaza war, because the alternative for them might very well look like this:
Russia is supporting the enemies of Israel. Russia is supporting Nazi people who want to commit genocide on us and Russia will pay the price. We’re gonna win this war. Afterwards, we’re not forgetting what you’re doing, we’re not forgetting, we will come, we will make sure Ukraine wins. We will make sure that you pay the price for what you have done, you as Russia.
Back on the ground in Ukraine, the good guys appear to be expanding their bridgehead on the left bank of the Dnipro, south of the city of Kherson.
Krynka/Krynky is located roughly halfway between the (still destroyed) Antonovsky bridge by the city of Kherson, and Nova Kakhovka, home of the other bridge Ukraine destroyed to force Russia out of northern Kherson oblast. Nova Kakhovka was also important as the source of Crimea’s drinking water, but once Russia blew the dam, that’s no longer a thing.
Kozachi Laheri, to Krynky’s west (I’ll use this spelling for now), has been periodically raided by Ukraine, but they have never attempted to defend any gains. Normally, we would assume the same for Krynky, except for that “liberated!” video.
Still, the video seems fishy to me—it’s inside a building, so there’s no way to geolocate it, and liberation videos usually feature a triumphant defender tearing down the Russian flag and hoisting a Ukrainian one. We don’t see that here.
On Friday, Russian war blogger Rybar released a map that specifically had Krisky in Ukrainian hands. (Look down to the bottom right.)
It would be nice to think that Ukraine is stepping up activities on this front. With Russian defenses tied up in the Zaporizhzhia front (where the Ukrainian advance is stalled for now), and its offensive forces getting chewed up around Avdiivka, there may not be much of anything in southern Kherson to stop a serious Ukrainian push.
By some indication, Russia doesn’t have any armor in this direction, making a Ukrainian advance using light infantry (marines, air assault, and special forces) possible. If they were able to somehow push down 10-15 kilometers, and if they were somehow able to logistically support that spearhead (all of them big “ifs”), that would push Russian artillery sufficiently back to allow Ukraine to build a pontoon bridge. And if that happened? It would be magical.
For now, I’ll stick with the more obvious scenario: Ukraine is forcing Russia to make a difficult decision—either reinforce Kherson at the expense of the other fronts, or risk losing lightly defended ground.
There is no Surovikhin network of defensive lines down here. Russia assumed the Dnipro River was good enough to protect its flank. Now we get to see if that was a smart bet.