Today's D Brief: Ukraine energy, targeted; Gaza aid, underway; Red Sea quid pro quo; Idea: ‘hedge forces’; And a bit more.

The Russian military conducted a large missile attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the early morning hours Friday. At least five people were killed and more than a dozen have been wounded, though those numbers could rise as the day progresses. At least a million people were left without electricity, according to the BBC

Nearly 90 ballistic and cruise missiles were used in a wave of attacks that began Thursday evening and featured an estimated 60 or so Iranian-designed Shahed drones, Ukraine’s president said Friday. The United Nations shared photos of some of the devastation across Ukraine, here

Targets included “power plants and energy supply lines, a hydroelectric dam [the DniproHES in Zaporizhzhia], ordinary residential buildings, and even a trolleybus,” President Volodymir Zelenskyy said. 

“Russian missiles have no delays, unlike aid packages for Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said on social media. And “Shahed drones have no indecision, unlike some politicians,” he added. “It is critical to understand the cost of delays and postponed decisions.”

This latest attack was the largest on Ukraine's energy system to date, according to the chief of Ukraine's energy utility, Volodymyr Kudrytsky of Ukrenergo, speaking to the Associated Press on Friday.

Developing: Ukrainian officials are defending their strategy of attacking Russia’s oil refineries with drones after reported criticism from U.S. officials, according to Reuters and the Financial Times, reporting Friday. “The attacks helped boost oil prices that have risen nearly 4% so far since March 12,” Reuters notes. 

“We understand the calls of the U.S. partners, but at the same time we are fighting with the capabilities, resources, and practices that we have,” Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna said at a security forum Friday. 

The UN’s chief asked Europeans Friday to care as much about civilians in Gaza as they do about civilians under attack in Ukraine. “The basic principle of international humanitarian law is the protection of civilians. We must stick to principles in Ukraine as in Gaza without double standards,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at an event in Brussels on Thursday. AP has more from Belgium, here

Additional reading: 

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 2004, the Israeli military assassinated the leader of Hamas, Ahmed Yassin, along with two bodyguards and nine bystanders when Hellfire missiles targeted Yassin's location in the Gaza Strip.

Another U.S. ship has departed the East Coast for humanitarian aid operations in Gaza. This time it’s a former sealift ship, the MV Roy P. Benavidez (T-AKR 306), which is now part of the Department of Transportation Maritime Administration Ready Reserve Fleet. 

About 10 days ago, the Army sent four of its own ships—the Monterrey (LCU-2030), Matamoros (LCU-2026), SP4 James A. Loux (LSV-6), and Wilson Wharf (LCU-2011)—from Joint Base Langley-Eustis to the coast of Gaza, too. Their mission is “to construct an approximately 1,800-foot causeway comprised of modular sections linked together known as a Trident Pier,” according to the Defense Department. 

This latest vessel is a large Bob Hope-class roll-on roll-off vehicle cargo ship, and it’s carrying portions of that floating modular pier. The ship is “capable of transporting up to 380,000 square feet of containerized cargo and rolling stock between developed ports,” the Navy said after its departure Thursday. You can get a sense of its scale in this photo taken last week off Newport News, Virginia. 

The improvised pier in Gaza could be completed by mid-May, or about 60 days, if U.S. officials’ estimates bear out. 

Commentary: Israel seems to be ignoring “the lessons from 20 years of global counter-terrorism conflicts,” warns Karen Sudkamp of Rand, writing Thursday in War on the Rocks. How so? Here are a few of her examples: 

  • “‘Destroying’ a terrorist organization through military force alone is impossible. The most common way for a terrorist group to be defeated, according to research, is through a transition to the political process.” However, that is not happening. 
  • Before striking a target, Israeli officials should “ensure they are allowing ample time to develop a pattern of life and prioritizing reducing civilian harm.” That’s not happening either. 
  • “Demonstrating a culture of adherence to the rule of law and rules of armed conflict was a critical step in rebuilding trust with Afghan and Iraqi partners.” But Israel has seemingly been very slow to advance in this direction. 
  • And in order to cut into local “support for terrorist and insurgent organizations, civilians should be given effective political and social options. They need homes, businesses, educational facilities, and communities to rebuild.” That’s not happening to any discernible degree in Gaza yet either. 

Sudkamp’s bottom line: “Planning for what happens after the end of hostilities should begin now.” But very little of that appears to have taken place so far, more than 160 days into this war of vengeance. Read her essay in full, here.

Houthis granting China, Russia safe passage in Red Sea, CENTCOM says. In return for, among other things, buying Iranian oil, Chinese ships are safely plying international waters that the Iran-backed group have been showering with missiles and drones, Gen. Michael Kurilla, who leads U.S. Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday. D1’s Patrick Tucker reports.

And lastly this week, from our Ideas section: Use “hedge forces” to contain China. The Pentagon likes to build exquisite weapons that can handle a range of tasks—but the expense of buying, manning, and sustaining them is shrinking the force, argue Hudson’s Bryan Clark and Dan Patt. The Pentagon needs to get comfortable with the concept of buying weapons for a specific situation, allowing them to do the job for far less money—for example, unmanned anti-ship craft to patrol the Taiwan Strait. Read on, here.