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On Sunday, the warship USS Carney, based in the Red Sea, shot down two drones fired at it and the merchant ship it was assisting, CNN reported. Yemen-based Houthi rebels, who have been battling Saudi Arabian forces and others for years, claimed they had attacked “two Israeli” ships in the area. In October, a similar assault saw drones attack a US Navy destroyer in the Red Sea, reported the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Houthis recently hijacked the Galaxy Leader, an Israeli-owned cargo ship, the Irish Times wrote. A Houthi spokesman said the seizure was in retaliation for Israel’s attacks on their “Palestinian brothers” in the Gaza Strip.

The incidents are signs of the potentially wider war in danger of breaking out from the conflict between Israel and Gaza, say analysts. They’re especially telling because they highlight a worsening standoff in the region between the US, a staunch ally of Israel, and proxies of Iran, Israel’s staunch adversary.

Since Hamas and its affiliates attacked Israel on Oct. 7, Iranian-backed militias have fired more than 70 rockets and drones at American soldiers in Iraq and Syria, according to the New York Times. The US has conducted four airstrikes in those countries, killing about 15 people. Each tit-for-tat military operation stands the chance of inflaming a war that might engulf the Middle East.

American officials have decided that they must walk a fine line between responding to threats and stirring up crises, reported the Associated Press. In the meantime, they have dispatched two aircraft carrier strike groups, a marine unit, and 1,200 additional troops to the Middle East, noted Counterpunch.

Those moves haven’t put Iran’s leaders at ease.

“We understand the US does not want the war to spread, but we think the US wants the war to intensify,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, told the New York Times in an interview. “If the US continues its military, political and financial support of Israel and helps manage Israel’s military attacks on Palestinian civilians, then it must face its consequences.”

In a broader war, Iran could activate hosts of militias throughout the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, where Israel and militia fighters have been skirmishing in recent days, added National Public Radio.

This shift would obviously put enormous pressure on Israeli forces that are now focused on Gaza. Iranian-backed groups could also sow discord in Iraq and Syria, two war-torn countries that otherwise have been fairly quiet recently. Many people would suffer. A war with Israel, for example, would be absolutely devastating for neighboring Lebanon, explained Reuters. The country is bankrupt and public services have collapsed.

And as Aaron Pilkington of the University of Denver wrote in the Conversation, he believes neither Israel nor Hamas will truly win this latest outbreak of conflict between them. Iran will.

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