Israel–Hamas War (Iran Updates)

This page collects the refocused Iran Updates that ISW and The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute began publishing on October 7, 2023. ISW and CTP refocused the Iran Update to cover the Israel–Hamas war. The new sections address developments in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria, as well as noteworthy activity from Iran’s Axis of Resistance.

Click here to view the updates published from October 7 to December 31, 2023.

We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. ISW and CTP at the American Enterprise Institute provides these updates regularly based on regional events.

For more on developments in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.

Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of Israeli ground operations. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in ISW's campaign assessments of the Israel-Hamas war. 


 

 

Iran Update, May 19, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Annika Ganzeveld, Andie Parry, Kelly Campa, Johanna Moore, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

CTP-ISW will publish abbreviated updates on May 18 and 19, 2024. Detailed coverage will resume on Monday, May 20, 2024.

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian crashed near Uzi, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran, on May 19.[1] It remains unclear at the time of this writing whether Raisi and Abdollahian survived the crash. First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber would temporarily serve as president if Raisi died in the crash, according to the Iranian constitution.[2] Mokhber, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei would then have 50 days to organize a presidential election.[3] Mokhber previously served as the head of the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO)—a parastatal organization directly controlled by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—between 2007 and 2021.[4] The US Treasury Department sanctioned Mokhber and the EIKO in January 2021.[5] Mokhber also previously served as the chairman of the US-sanctioned Sina Bank and as the Mostazafan Foundation’s vice president for commerce and transportation.[6] The US Treasury Department sanctioned Sina Bank in October 2018 for financially supporting the Basij—a paramilitary organization responsible for civil defense and social control in Iran—and sanctioned the Mostazafan Foundation in November 2020.[7]

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei wields ultimate decision-making authority in Iran, but Raisi still holds significant power within the regime. Raisi is the deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts, a regime entity constitutionally responsible for monitoring the supreme leader and selecting his successor.[8] Iranians re-elected Raisi to serve as a representative of South Khorasan Province in the Assembly of Experts during the recent March 2024 Assembly of Experts elections.[9] Raisi also holds numerous ex officio positions. He is a member of the Expediency Discernment Council and the chairman of the Supreme National Security Council, Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, and Supreme Cyber Space Council.

Raisi’s death would have serious implications for supreme leader succession. Raisi is considered one of the top contenders—along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba Khamenei—to succeed Khamenei as supreme leader. Khamenei appointed Raisi to the position of judiciary chief in 2019 and endorsed Raisi during the August 2021 presidential elections.[10] The next several days have the potential to reshape the immediate and long-term dynamics of the regime, including supreme leader succession. Raisi’s death would ultimately not change the regime’s current trajectory toward more hardline and conservative domestic policies and more aggressive regional policies, however.

Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz threatened to leave Israel’s coalition government if the three-member war cabinet does not approve a new strategy for the war in the Gaza Strip by June 8.[11] Gantz appealed for a strategy that prioritizes the release of hostages over the destruction of Hamas and allows residents in northern Israel to return home by September 1.[12] Gantz also called for Israeli security control of the Gaza Strip alongside the formation of a US-European-Arab-Palestinian group to take charge of civilian administration in the Gaza Strip. This civil administration would exclude both Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.[13] Gantz also called for an Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization deal.[14] The normalization deal currently calls for Palestinian statehood.[15] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office responded to Gantz’s ultimatum saying that Netanyahu is “determined to eliminate the Hamas battalions [and he] opposes the introduction of the Palestinian Authority into Gaza and the establishment of a Palestinian state.”[16] Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant—the third member of the war cabinet—also publicly called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to define a political end state in the Gaza Strip on May 15.[17]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian crashed in East Azerbaijan Province, Iran.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Three IDF brigades continued operations in Jabalia.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: The IDF deployed an additional reservist brigade to Rafah.
  • Gaza Strip Post War: Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz threatened to leave Israel’s coalition government if the three-member war cabinet does not approve a new strategy for the war in the Gaza Strip by June 8. Gantz appealed for a strategy that prioritizes the release of hostages over the destruction of Hamas and allows residents in northern Israel to return home by September 1.
  • West Bank: Israel’s Central Command conducted a previously unannounced training exercise to prepare Israeli forces in the West Bank for “extreme scenarios.”
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least 11 attacks into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 18.

Iran Update, May 18, 2024

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Ashka Jhaveri, Andie Parry, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF 98th Division continued to conduct clearing operations in Jabalia.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces expanded clearing operations in eastern Rafah.
  • Political Negotiations: US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the United States believes Hamas withdrew from the latest ceasefire negotiations in the hopes of increasing pressure on Israel to end the war.
  • West Bank: The IDF Air Force killed a PIJ Jenin Battalion Commander in an airstrike on a PIJ “operations room” in the Jenin refugee camp.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least 14 attacks into northern Israel.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM reported that the Houthis struck the Wind, a Panamanian-flagged, Greek-owned oil tanker, with one anti-ship ballistic missile in the Red Sea.
  • Iraq: The Iraqi Council of Representatives failed to elect a new speaker.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 98th Division continued to conduct clearing operations in Jabalia on May 18. Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters and located tunnel shafts, explosives, and rocket launchers.[1] The IDF 460th Brigade located and destroyed a lathe for producing weapons, including long-range rockets, grenades, and bombs.[2] Several Palestinian militias defended against Israeli advances into Jabalia with rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), anti-tank fire, improvised explosive devices, and mortars.[3] Hamas claimed to fire a SAM-7 missile targeting an Israeli helicopter over the Jabalia refugee camp.[4]

The IDF issued evacuation orders for the Atatra and Karama areas in the northern Gaza Strip on May 18.[5] The IDF previously issued evacuation orders around Jabalia on May 11 ahead of a clearing operation there.[6] The IDF has since then expanded the orders twice, which now extend to the Gazan coast.[7]

Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters and directed airstrikes in the central Gaza Strip on May 18.[8] The IDF Unit 414 killed several Palestinian fighters, who had fired RPGs at Israeli forces.[9] The IDF did not specify where in the central Gaza Strip it is operating.

Israeli forces expanded clearing operations in eastern Rafah on May 18. The IDF 401st Brigade is “deepening the raid” in eastern Rafah, according to the IDF.[10] Israeli forces destroyed militia infrastructure and killed about 50 Palestinian fighters in the area. Israeli forces also destroyed a weapons production site. An IDF lieutenant colonel said that the IDF has begun attacking Hamas’ Rafah Brigade.[11] Several Palestinian militias claimed attacks targeting Israeli forces in the al Tanour neighborhood, indicating that Israeli forces have advanced to the area.[12] A Palestinian journalist reported that Israeli forces advanced and engaged Palestinian fighters in the Jninah and Brazil neighborhoods in eastern Rafah.[13] Israeli forces have so far killed over 80 Palestinian fighters since advancing into eastern Rafah on May 7.[14] Palestinian militias fired mortars and rockets at the Rafah crossing area, where Israeli forces have set up a military position.[15]

The IDF Air Force killed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighter, who oversaw logistics for PIJ’s Rafah Brigade.[16] The fighter was responsible for preparing fighters for Israeli operations in Rafah.

Israeli forces recovered the body of a hostage in the Gaza Strip.[17] The IDF spokesperson made the announcement on May 18.[18] Hamas fighters killed the hostage during the October 7 attack and took the body into the Gaza Strip.[19] Israeli forces recovered the body along with the bodies of three other hostages on May 17.[20] Israeli forces located the bodies using information from detained Palestinian fighters.[21] 128 hostages remain in the Gaza Strip, of whom 39 Israel has declared dead.[22]

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the United States believes Hamas withdrew from the latest ceasefire negotiations in the hopes of increasing pressure on Israel to end the war, according to two sources speaking to Axios.[23] Sullivan said that Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar does not want a deal during a meeting with foreign ambassadors. The latest round of talks concluded in Cairo on May 8 with both Israel and Hamas messaging that negotiations had stalled.[24] Hamas claimed that it left the talks because of Israel’s military operation in the Rafah crossing.[25]

Palestinian militias condemned the US-constructed pier, which is facilitating humanitarian aid shipments into the Gaza Strip. Hamas said that the pier is not an alternative to opening all land crossings under Palestinian supervision.[26] The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine warned against using the pier for actions unrelated to transporting aid.[27] The Palestinian Mujahideen Movement said that it views the pier with “suspicion and concern” due to US financial and military support for Israel.[28] The group also called for Palestinian supervision of all ports and border crossings into the Gaza Strip.

Aid trucks began transporting supplies from the US-constructed offshore pier into the Gaza Strip on May 17.[29] The United Kingdom supplied the aid and has been coordinating logistics in Cyprus, where the aid is inspected.[30] The World Food Programme will deliver the aid to other agencies or distribute it directly.[31]

Palestinian militias conducted at least two indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on May 18.[32] PIJ fired 10 rockets targeting Ashkelon, five of which Israeli forces intercepted.[33] The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) fired rockets at an IDF site east of Rafah.[34]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's data cut off on May 17.[35] Palestinian fighters targeted Israeli forces with improvised explosive devices in three towns near Nablus.[36]

The IDF Air Force killed PIJ Jenin Battalion Commander Islam Khamaysa in an airstrike on a PIJ “operations room” in Jenin refugee camp on May 17.[37] The IDF said that Khamaysa was responsible for several attacks that killed one Israeli and injured others in the West Bank in 2023.[38] Local Palestinian media said that the airstrike killed an additional PIJ fighter.[39] Hamas, PIJ, and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades mourned Khamaysa.[40] PIJ fighters from Jenin, Tulkarm, Tubas, and Nablus participated in Khamaysa’s funeral in Jenin.[41]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least 14 attacks into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 17.[42]  

Iran and the Axis of Resistance

CENTCOM reported that the Houthis struck the Wind, a Panamanian-flagged, Greek-owned oil tanker, with one anti-ship ballistic missile in the Red Sea on May 18.[43] The anti-ship ballistic missile impact flooded the tanker, which caused the crew to briefly lose propulsion and steering. CENTCOM added that the tanker “was most recently docked in Russia and was bound for China.” A British maritime security company said that the missile strike also caused a fire on the oil tanker, which was 10 nautical miles off the coast of Mokha.[44]  The Houthis have not claimed the attack on the Wind at the time of this writing.

The Iraqi Council of Representatives failed to elect a new speaker on May 18. The Shia Coordination Framework-backed candidate Mahmoud al Mashhadani came in second place with 137 votes.[45] The Shia Coordination Framework is a loose coalition of Iranian-aligned Shia political parties. The opposing candidate Salem al Issawi received 158 votes.[46] No candidate secured the 165 votes required to become parliament speaker. The Iraqi parliament has been without an elected speaker since November 2023, when the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court dismissed former speaker Mohammad al Halbousi.[47]


Iran Update, May 17, 2024

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Ashka Jhaveri, Kathryn Tyson, Alexandra Braverman, Andie Parry, Thomas Bergeron, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET 

Hamas is continuing to discuss its desired political end state in which a Hamas-influenced government governs the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh gave a speech on May 15 that outlined this end state, which will include an “administration” for the post-war Gaza Strip that Hamas will build alongside “all [Palestinian] factions.”[1] Hamas has had a vision for the post-war Gaza Strip since at least late December 2023, when Haniyeh said Hamas was open to a national unity government including Hamas that would rule both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.[2] Both Russia and China have supported this effort since at least February 2024. Russia facilitated Hamas-Fatah talks in February 2024 that sought to achieve "Palestinian unity,” and China hosted senior Hamas and Fatah officials in Beijing on April 26 to "strive for the early realization of Palestinian unity and reunification.”[3] Fatah is the party that controls the Palestinian Authority and would be the main Hamas governing partner in a unity government.

Hamas probably sees an opportunity to exploit this war and Hamas’ relative popularity in the West Bank to expand its political control in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is 88 years old and has not identified a successor.[4] Hamas almost certainly views the lack of a successor and Abbas’ age as a weakness it will be able to exploit once Abbas dies. The war has also increased Hamas’ popularity in the West Bank, according to a Palestinian polling organization. Thirty-five percent of West Bankers support Hamas as of March 2024 compared to 12% of West Bankers in September 2023.[5] Only 12% of West Bankers support Fatah as of March 2024, and 47% of West Bankers support no party.[6] Hamas likely assesses it can leverage these trends to improve its political position vis-a-vis Fatah and Israel by expanding Hamas’ political control to the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that he would be open to a post-war Gazan authority that excludes the Palestinian Authority.[7] Netanyahu made unspecified comments that suggested his openness to a local authority in the Gaza Strip during a cabinet meeting. This follows criticism from several senior Israeli officials, including the defense minister, who oppose establishing a military government in the Gaza Strip and demand a clear post-war plan.[8] Netanyahu suggested that a "non-Hamas civilian administration with overall Israeli military responsibility" could govern the Strip during an interview with CNBC in April 2024.[9] Israel has reportedly engaged with Palestinians unaffiliated with Hamas during the war to discuss governance issues, including managing the Rafah crossing and distributing and securing aid.[10]

Key Takeaways:

  • Post-War Governance:  Hamas is continuing to discuss its desired political end state in which a Hamas-influenced government governs the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu separately suggested he would be open to a post-war Gaza that excludes the Palestinian Authority. Several senior Israeli officials have recently criticized Netanyahu for his unwillingness to define a post-war plan.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces described the fighting in Jabalia as some of the most intense of the war.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued clearing operations in several areas of eastern Rafah.
  • Humanitarian Aid: Aid trucks began transporting supplies from the US-constructed offshore pier into the Gaza Strip.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least 13 attacks into northern Israel.
  • Iran: Former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Mohsen Rezaei claimed that Iran launched 162 drones, 30 cruise missiles, and 100 ballistic missiles during its April 13 drone and missile attack on Israel.
  • Yemen: Houthi Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yahya Sarea claimed that Houthi air defenses shot down a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over a Houthi-controlled area of Ma’rib Governorate, Yemen.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed one drone attack targeting Israel. 

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Israeli forces described the fighting in Jabalia as some of the most intense of the war. The IDF began clearing operations in Jabalia on May 11 and reached the city center by May 17.[11] Palestinian militias have maintained the highest daily attack rate of the war in Jabalia. Israeli officers told Israeli media that the engagements with Palestinian fighters, both above and below ground, have been the "most violent" of the war, highlighting the challenges of maneuvering through the narrow alleys of Jabalia refugee camp.[12] Palestinian militias have been using explosive devices and firing rocket-propelled grenades.[13] Israeli forces have killed about 200 Palestinian fighters and detained 40 for questioning during the operation so far.[14]

Palestinian militias sustained a high rate of attacks in Jabalia on May 17. The militias claimed 22 attacks.[15] Hamas claimed that it disrupted Israeli ground lines of communication east of the Jabalia refugee camp by attacking Israeli armored personnel carriers and infantry.[16] Hamas said that these attacks forced the IDF to change its supply lines multiple times.[17] The IDF has not commented on the Hamas attacks. Commercially available satellite imagery captured in May 2024 shows a newly cleared track along the Shaashaa Road east of Jabalia, indicating Israeli efforts to build and protect a road to support operations in Jabalia. Israeli forces originally cleared terrain along the Shaashaa Road in late 2023, according to commercially available satellite imagery.

The IDF published a summary of its activity in Zaytoun neighborhood, southern Gaza City, after completing a re-clearing operation there on May 16.[18] Israeli forces initially launched the operation in Zaytoun on May 8, marking the third time that the IDF has conducted a clearing operation there.[19] The IDF reported that its forces destroyed rocket launchers, a Hamas headquarters, tunnels, and a lathe for producing weapons.[20] The IDF Air Force struck more than 100 targets in the area. Israeli forces also engaged Palestinian fighters and destroyed infrastructure along the Netzarim corridor south of Gaza City. The IDF has not confirmed whether Israeli forces have withdrawn from Zaytoun following the operation.

Israeli forces continued clearing operations in several areas of eastern Rafah on May 17. The IDF 401st Brigade destroyed rocket launch sites east of Rafah and found launchers for long-range rockets.[21] Israeli forces have located and destroyed several tunnel shafts in the area but have not confirmed whether these tunnels cross into Egypt.[22] The Israeli representative to the Hague said on May 17 that Israel has identified nearly 700 tunnel shafts in Rafah and approximately 50 of the 700 tunnels cross into Egyptian territory.[23] The Israeli representative said that Hamas uses the tunnels to smuggle itself weapons and that Hamas could be using the tunnels to smuggle hostages or Hamas senior operatives out of the Gaza Strip.[24] Palestinians developed tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt to smuggle goods under the border several decades ago.[25] Several Palestinian militias targeted Israeli command positions and forces in eastern Rafah—including at the Rafah crossing—with rocket and mortar fire.[26]

Israeli forces recovered the bodies of three hostages in a tunnel in the Gaza Strip.[27] The IDF spokesperson made the announcement on May 17.[28] Palestinian fighters killed the three hostages during Hamas’ October 7 attack at the Nova music festival and took the bodies into the Gaza Strip.[29] Israeli forces located the bodies using information from detained Palestinian fighters.[30]

Aid trucks began transporting supplies from the US-constructed offshore pier into the Gaza Strip on May 17.[31] The United Kingdom supplied the aid and has been coordinating logistics in Cyprus, where the aid is inspected.[32] The World Food Programme will deliver the aid to other agencies or distribute it directly.[33] The aid is destined for both the northern and southern Gaza Strip. The UN anticipates minimal delays at Israeli checkpoints because the aid has been pre-inspected in Cyprus.[34]

The Washington Post published several satellite images on May 17 that show the development and size of Israeli forward operating bases along the Netzarim Corridor south of Gaza City[35] Israeli forces have established forward operating bases along the corridor, which runs east-west across the Gaza Strip, to facilitate future raids into the northern Gaza Strip.[36] The corridor meets with the US-constructed offshore pier to facilitate humanitarian aid shipments. An Israeli Army Radio correspondent noted that the IDF has enhanced radar and observation capabilities at some military positions.

Israeli media obtained an Israeli government document that describes the cost of an Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip.[37] The document claimed that occupation would cost 20 billion NIS (roughly 5 billion USD) per year and require five permanent IDF divisions in the Strip. The IDF would be required to dramatically increase the number of reserve soldiers and reduce its forces in IDF Northern and Central Command.

The Arab League called on May 16 for a United Nations peacekeeping force to deploy into the Gaza Strip and the West Bank until a two-state solution can be negotiated.[38] UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said this is the first time that the Arab League has made the request in a written document. US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said that bringing in “additional security forces” could potentially compromise Israel’s campaign to dismantle Hamas when asked about whether the United States would support deploying peacekeepers.[39]

Palestinian militias conducted at least two indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on May 17.[40] The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Resistance Committees fired rockets from Jabalia refugee camp in a combined attack targeting Sderot.[41] An Israeli war correspondent noted that Palestinian militias have been increasingly firing rockets at Sderot as Israeli forces advance in Jabalia.[42] Palestinian militias have repeatedly fired rockets into Israel as Israeli ground forces approached launch sites during the war.[43]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's data cut off on May 16.[44] Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired small arms and detonated IEDs targeting Israeli forces during operations in Tubas.[45]

Dozens of Israeli settlers attacked an Israeli truck driver and set fire to his truck in Kochav Hashachar, northeast of Ramallah, on May 16.[46] Israeli media reported that the settlers believed the truck was transporting humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.[47] The IDF said that two officers and one soldier were injured as the IDF intervened.[48] The IDF added that it would act ”to the fullest extent of the law” against anyone who attacks IDF soldiers or Israeli security forces.

Israeli settlers and organizations have repeatedly disrupted the delivery of aid to the Gaza Strip from the West Bank since the Israel-Hamas War began.[49] The Times of Israel reported that two unspecified US officials said on May 16 that the Biden administration was looking into sanctioning Israeli settlers involved in the attacks against aid convoys.[50] White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on May 13 called the recent attacks a “total outrage“ and said that the United States is looking into tools it could use to respond.[51]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least 13 attacks into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 16.[52] The IDF said that unspecified fighters fired 75 "munitions” from Lebanon targeting Israeli territory.[53] The IDF added that it intercepted dozens of these munitions. Hezbollah said that it fired 50 rockets targeting an Israeli logistics base in the Golan Heights and that it fired another rocket salvo targeting Israeli forces in al Zaoura in northern Israel shortly after.[54] An Israeli Army Radio correspondent said that the attacks injured two Israeli civilians.[55]

Hezbollah has claimed firing salvos with dozens of rockets into Israel several times per month since February 2023.[56] Hezbollah said it fired more than 100 rockets targeting Israeli forces in northern Israel on March 12, marking one of its largest attacks since the Israel-Hamas War began.[57]

The IDF killed a Hamas commander in a strike in Lebanon on May 17. An IDF drone strike killed a Hamas commander in Majdal Anjar in the Bekaa Governorate in Lebanon on May 17.[58] An unspecified source close to Hamas told Agence France-Presse that the commander was responsible for Hamas activity in the Bekaa region.[59] Hamas mourned the death of the commander on May 17.[60]

The IDF also killed a Hezbollah commander in a second strike on May 17. An IDF airstrike killed a senior Hezbollah air force commander in Najariyah, southern Lebanon, according to Israeli sources.[61] The IDF confirmed that it conducted strikes targeting Hezbollah compounds in the same area on May 17.[62] Israeli sources reported that the commander was responsible for firing one-way attack drones at Israel.[63] Hezbollah mourned the death of the commander on May 17.[64]

IDF Northern Command Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin and Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Rafi Milo met at Northern Command headquarters on May 16.[65] Gordin and Milo discussed the continued defense of northern Israel in various conflict scenarios and creating conditions for displaced civilians to return to northern Israel.

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Mohsen Rezaei claimed on May 16 that Iran launched 162 drones, 30 cruise missiles, and 100 ballistic missiles during its April 13 drone and missile attack on Israel.[66] The IDF previously stated on April 14 that Iran launched approximately 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles, and 120 ballistic missiles.[67] Senior Iranian leaders have previously claimed that Iran’s April 13 attack was a ”success.”[68] Iranian officials have separately stated that Iran has adopted a new “equation” for confronting Israel under which Iran will retaliate by launching attacks targeting Israel directly from Iranian territory should Israel attack Iran or Iranian targets abroad.[69]

The Iranian Law Enforcement Command (LEC) arrested over 230 individuals on charges of performing “acts of satanism” in Shahriar city, 30 km west of Tehran, on May 16.[70] The arrest included three European citizens.[71] The arrested individuals were accused of wearing satanic symbols on their clothes and bodies, drinking alcohol, and consuming psychedelic substances.

Houthi Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yahya Sarea claimed that Houthi air defenses shot down a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over a Houthi-controlled area of Ma’rib Governorate, Yemen, on May 16.[72] Sarea claimed the Houthis used a surface-to-air missile to shoot down the drone.[73] CENTCOM has not acknowledged the incident. CTP-ISW cannot verify that the Houthis shot down an MQ-9.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—has claimed one drone attack targeting Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cut-off on May 16.[74] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed to strike an unspecified “vital” target in Eilat, southern Israel.[75] CTP-ISW cannot verify that the claimed attack occurred.

The Shia Coordination Framework—a loose coalition of Iranian-aligned Shia political parties—held an “emergency meeting” on May 16 to discuss the selection of the next speaker of the Council of Representatives.[76] The Shia Coordination Framework called for all members of parliament to attend the May 18 election of a new parliament speaker. Iraqi parliament must reach a two-thirds quorum on May 18 to hold the vote.[77]


Iran Update, May 16, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Kathryn Tyson, Andie Parry, Kelly Campa, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, Ashka Jhaveri, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Houthi Supreme Leader Abdulmalik al Houthi claimed on May 16 that the Houthis have attacked international shipping in the Mediterranean Sea in recent days.[1] No evidence to support this claim is currently available. Abdulmalik stated that the Houthis conducted two attacks targeting Israel-affiliated targets in the Mediterranean Sea over the past week without providing further details.[2] The Houthis’ Shahed-136 drone has a range of around 2,500 kilometers and could thus reach the Mediterranean Sea.[3] Abdulmalik’s claim comes after the Houthis announced on May 3 that they began a “fourth phase” of escalation by targeting international shipping bound for Israel in the Mediterranean Sea.[4]

Abdulmalik’s claim is likely part of the broader effort that the Axis of Resistance is conducting to impose an unofficial blockade on Israel. Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Bahrain have similarly claimed in recent weeks to have conducted attacks targeting Israeli infrastructure and sites tied to Israeli international trade.[5] It is similarly unclear whether these attacks actually occurred. Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” appear to be operating on the theory that severe economic disruption would compel Israel to accept defeat in the Gaza Strip and that such economic pressure could ultimately collapse the Israeli state. Iranian leaders have said repeatedly in recent months that their theory of how to destroy Israel revolves around stoking fear in Israel in order to catalyze reverse migration away from Israel. Iran has sought to extend its military reach into the Mediterranean Sea as part of this effort, as CTP-ISW has previously reported.[6]

CTP-ISW has previously assessed that the Houthis will likely fail to disrupt trade around the Mediterranean Sea in the same way that they have around the Red Sea.[7] The Houthis have a much more limited suite of capabilities that could reach the Mediterranean Sea. The Houthis also presumably lack a robust targeting capability there, whereas the Iranian Behshad surveillance ship provides targeting intelligence the Houthis around the Bab al Mandeb strait.[8]

Abdulmalik separately called on Iranian-backed Iraqi militias to join the Houthis’ “fourth phase” of escalation in the Mediterranean Sea.[9] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—has claimed several attacks on Israeli civilian and military infrastructure along the Israeli coast since December 2023.[10] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq also claimed that it could reach the Mediterranean Sea with a drone similar to the Houthi Samad drone on May 13.[11]

Key Takeaways:

 

  • Yemen: Houthi Supreme Leader Abdulmalik al Houthi claimed that the Houthis have attacked international shipping in the Mediterranean Sea in recent days. No evidence to support this claim is currently available.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF 98th Division continued to conduct clearing operations in Jabalia refugee camp.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: The IDF 162nd Division continued to conduct clearing operations east of Rafah City.
  • West Bank: The IDF conducted an “extensive” operation to disrupt Palestinian militia financing networks in several cities in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least 16 attacks into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias— claimed two attacks targeting Israel.

Iran Update, May 15, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Brian Carter, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, Kathryn Tyson, Kelly Campa, and Annika Ganzeveld

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

The Israeli defense minister publicly called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to define a political end state in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on May 15 that “governance by non-Hamas Palestinian entities, accompanied by international actors, is in Israel’s interest.”[1] Gallant added that he rejected Israeli civil or military governance in the Strip. Gallant said that his statement was necessary because “the gains of the war are being eroded and Israel’s long-term security is at stake.”[2] Gallant was responding to an earlier statement by Netanyahu in which Netanyahu argued that it would be irrelevant to discuss the post-war plans until Hamas is destroyed.[3]

This public disagreement between Netanyahu and Gallant comes after IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi privately demanded a post-war plan from Netanyahu and called current Israeli re-clearing operations a “Sisyphean task.”[4] Halevi made these comments during a cabinet meeting sometime between May 10 and 12.[5] The Washington Post reported that Halevi’s private comments reflected the opinions of “many Israeli security officials.”[6] Other senior IDF officials also demanded ”political leaders...make decisions and formulate a strategy,” according to Israeli media.[7] Israeli media also reported that Israeli cabinet officials told the prime minister that his failure to make decisions was ”risking lives.”[8] These disagreements come as the IDF reentered Zaytoun, a neighborhood in southern Gaza City, for the third time since February 2024 and other IDF units began a major, division-sized operation in Jabalia.[9] The IDF previously fought in Jabalia in December 2023 before withdrawing.[10]

Military action should be designed and executed with a defined political end state to guide military operations and avoid actions that will undermine the successful achievement of the political end state. This is particularly important when the requirement for a military operation’s success is the development and stability of a new government in the area of operations. The political echelon should define a political end state to enable military commanders to design military operations to successfully meet the political end. Military commanders planning operations that lack a political end state will be unable to plan and execute effective operations because the commanders will not understand how their mission fits into the political objective of eliminating Hamas’ government. Destroying Hamas is a military task, but it is not necessarily a political end state without a vision for the post-war Gaza Strip. Some actions that could destroy Hamas’ military capabilities may fail to support the establishment of a new government. Other actions could ultimately undermine Israel’s ability to replace Hamas with a new governing authority in the Gaza Strip. The articulation of a political end state is important to avoid the risks of such outcome.

CTP-ISW continues to assess that there is no sustainable end to this conflict if Hamas remains a political and military entity in the Gaza Strip. Hamas aims to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamist Palestinian state controlling all Israeli territory. Hamas has said publicly that it can “accept the interim liberation of parts of Palestine” and an “interim truce” but that these interim steps only “serve as a warrior’s rest stop.”[11] ”Parts of Palestine“ in this context refers to the Gaza Strip. A ceasefire that leaves Hamas in power would serve Hamas’ purposes by allowing the group to prepare for the next round of fighting. Hamas started the current war by breaking a period of relative calm between itself and Israel on October 6, and there is no reason to believe Hamas will honor a future “truce.”

Reuters reported on May 15 that Jordanian security services thwarted an attempt by Iranian-backed militias in Syria to smuggle weapons to a Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood cell in Jordan in late March 2024.[12] Jordanian security services arrested an unspecified number of Jordanians of Palestinian descent who were “members of the Brotherhood cell” and seized a cache of unspecified smuggled weapons, according to two anonymous Jordanian sources. The Brotherhood cell members intended to use the weapons to conduct “acts of sabotage” to destabilize Jordan, according to the sources. The unspecified Jordanian sources also claimed that the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood cell is linked to Hamas’ military wing. An anonymous senior Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood representative claimed that senior Hamas leader Saleh al Arouri—who the Israelis killed in January 2024—recruited the arrested cell members.[13] Hamas denied on May 15 that it planned to stoke instability in Jordan.[14] The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood acknowledged that Jordanian security forces arrested some of its members and that these members possessed smuggled weapons but claimed that Brotherhood leadership did not approve the smuggling of weapons to Jordan.[15] It is nonetheless notable that Iranian-backed militias and a senior Hamas leader were able to recruit and then smuggle weapons to a cell in Jordan.

The Iranian-backed attempt to arm a Muslim Brotherhood cell in Jordan supports CTP-ISW's previous assessments that Iran is adopting a more confrontational approach towards Jordan in its regional strategy.[16] Jordan has thwarted numerous attempts in recent months by Iran and its partners to smuggle weapons—including Claymore mines, C4 and Semtex explosives, Kalashnikov rifles, and 107mm Katyusha rockets—to the West Bank and Jordan.[17]

Bloomberg reported on May 15 that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s understanding of Iranian "nuclear ambitions" has deteriorated, citing the IAEA Safeguards Implementation Report.[18]. The IAEA released the report to diplomats who will attend the IAEA Board of Governors meeting in Vienna on June 3. The report stated that the IAEA's understanding of Iran’s production and inventory of centrifuges, rotors and bellows, heavy water, and uranium ore concentration has decreased despite an eight percent increase in the number of IAEA inspections in Iran in 2023. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi stated in the report that there has been little progress in resolving outstanding safeguards issues. Grossi added that the IAEA cannot provide ”assurances about the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program” unless Iran resolves the outstanding safeguards issues. Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium increased by 145 kilograms in the last quarter.

Grossi separately stated on May 15 that Iranian officials “must stop” normalizing discussions about procuring a nuclear weapon. Some Iranian officials have warned in recent weeks that Iran could change its nuclear doctrine, as CTP-ISW has repeatedly noted.[19] Grossi stated that Iran must "meaningfully engage” with the IAEA so that the IAEA can guarantee that the Iranian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful in nature.

Key Takeaways:

  • Post-War Plan for the Gaza Strip: Senior Israeli officials are publicly disagreeing over a post-war plan for the Gaza Strip. The Israeli defense minister demanded a post-war plan from Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the IDF chief of staff called current Israeli operations a “Sisyphean task” unless a post-war plan is established.
  • Military action should be designed and executed with a defined political end state to guide military operations and avoid actions that will undermine the successful achievement of the political end state. Destroying Hamas is a military task, but it is not necessarily a political end state without a vision for the post-war Gaza Strip.
  • CTP-ISW continues to assess that there is no sustainable end to this conflict if Hamas remains a political and military entity in the Gaza Strip. A ceasefire that leaves Hamas in power would serve Hamas’ purposes by allowing the group to prepare for the next round of fighting.
  • Jordan: Jordanian security services arrested several Jordanians of Palestinian descent and seized a weapons cache that Iranian-backed militias had smuggled from Syria into Jordan with the involvement of the apprehended Jordanians. The Brotherhood cell members reportedly intended to use the weapons to conduct “acts of sabotage” to destabilize Jordan.
  • Iran: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s understanding of Iranian "nuclear ambitions" has deteriorated, according to the IAEA Safeguards Implementation Report. The IAEA Director General said that Iranian officials “must stop” normalizing discussions about procuring a nuclear weapon
  • Lebanon: The IDF killed a senior Hezbollah field commander in a drone strike in Tyre, southern Lebanon, on May 14.



Ashka Jhaveri, Alexandra Braverman, Annika Ganzeveld, Kathryn Tyson, Kelly Campa, Johanna Moore, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Israeli forces expanded clearing operations on May 14 into areas of the Jabalia refugee camp that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had not previously cleared. Two IDF brigades advanced into the center of the Jabalia refugee camp.[1] Israeli forces initially conducted clearing operations in Jabalia city and refugee camp in November 2023, but the IDF had not advanced into center of the camp before this operation.[2]

Palestinian militias have sustained the highest number of claimed attacks per day around Jabalia since the war began. Palestinian militias have claimed 86 attacks (an average of roughly 28 attacks per day) targeting Israeli forces since the IDF advanced into eastern Jabalia on May 11.[3] This rate of attack exceeds the level seen during a similar operation in Zaytoun, when the militias claimed 92 attacks (an average of roughly 10 attacks per day) over a nine-day period during the IDF’s first re-clearing operation in Zaytoun.[4] The militias have preserved or rebuilt the personnel and material required to contest Israeli raids in the northern Gaza Strip. Hamas will likely be able to compensate for any losses it takes during this Israeli operation by rebuilding its units in the Jabalia refugee camp after the IDF withdraws, given the IDF’s clear-leave-repeat strategy.

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias are sustaining a very high daily rate of attacks targeting Israeli forces in Jabalia. The IDF is currently conducting two re-clearing operations in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli operations continued in eastern Rafah and around the Rafah border crossing.
  • Iran: Iranian media identified former Iranian Ambassador to Iraq and IRGC Quds Force Brig. Gen. Eraj Masjedi as the IRGC Quds Force coordination deputy for the first time on May 14. The coordination deputy is the third highest-ranking officer in the IRGC Quds Force.
  • West Bank: Israeli civilians set fire to two humanitarian aid trucks bound for the Gaza Strip at a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank.
  • Lebanon: Lebanese Hezbollah fired several anti-tank guided missiles targeting an Israeli surveillance balloon and equipment associated with it in successive attacks.

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Palestinian militias, including Hamas, claimed an unusually high number of attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip on May 13, demonstrating that these militias remain combat effective and retain a significant force presence there. This supports CTP-ISW’s assessment that Hamas and the other Palestinian militias remain active beyond just Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militias claimed 33 attacks targeting Israeli forces in Jabalia, marking the most attacks claimed in a single day in 2024.[1]

Hamas has exploited Israeli withdrawals from the northern Gaza Strip to begin reconstituting there, which has in turn led Israeli forces to return to areas to re-clear them. Israeli forces moved back into Jabalia on May 11 after the IDF assessed that Hamas and other Palestinian militias were rebuilding their capabilities and networks there. There had been until now few claimed Palestinian attacks in Jabalia since January 2024 likely due to an absence of Israeli targets—rather than because the militias were destroyed.[2] Israeli forces have also launched a clearing operation into Zaytoun neighborhood on May 8, marking the third time that the IDF has conducted a clearing operation there.[3] Hamas exploits the fact that these Israeli clearing operations involve targeted raids. Hamas moves away into other areas during the Israeli operation, allowing Hamas to preserve some of its forces.[4] Hamas and the other Palestinian militias will almost certainly resume their reconstitution efforts in these neighborhoods after Israeli forces complete their current clearing operations there.

Senior US officials have indicated concerns that Hamas will survive in the Gaza Strip. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on May 12 that without an alternative to Hamas, Israel will achieve unsustainable successes and ultimately Hamas would return to power.[5] US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told CNN that the United States doesn’t believe that Israel’s goal of a total victory over Hamas is ”likely or possible.”[6]

Iran is continuing to signal publicly that it could pursue a nuclear weapon. Strategic Foreign Relations Council Chairman Kamal Kharrazi stated during an annual Arab-Iranian dialogue conference on May 13 that Iran would need to change its nuclear doctrine if it faced threats from nuclear-armed countries.[7] This threat is particularly noteworthy given that Kharrazi is a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Kharrazi similarly stated during an interview with al Jazeera on May 9 that Iran will have “no choice” but to change its nuclear doctrine if Israel threatened Iran existentially.[8] That Kharrazi made both comments to Arabic-speaking audiences suggests that he meant to signal to Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in particular. CTP-ISW has observed that Iranian officials have normalized public discussion about pursuing a nuclear weapon in recent months.[9]

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias, including Hamas, claimed an unusually high number of attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip, demonstrating that these militias remain combat effective and retain a significant force presence there.
  • Iran: Iran is continuing to signal publicly that it could pursue a nuclear weapon.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to conduct a clearing operating in eastern Rafah and at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
  • Political Negotiations: US President Joe Biden said that there would be a “ceasefire tomorrow” in the Gaza Strip if Hamas would release the remaining Israeli hostages.
  • West Bank: The Israeli Tsav 9 group organized protesters to block humanitarian aid trucks bound for the Gaza Strip at a border crossing between Israel and the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: A Lebanese newspaper reported that Hezbollah is evading Israeli air defenses by using drones in its attacks into northern Israel, citing Iranian-backed sources.
  • Iraq: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani requested that the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) permanently end its mission in Iraq by the end of 2025.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM reported that it intercepted a Houthi drone over the Gulf of Aden.

Iran Update, May 12, 2024

click here to read the full report with maps

Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

CTP-ISW will publish abbreviated updates on May 11 and 12, 2024. Detailed coverage will resume on Monday, May 13, 2024.

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: Israeli ground forces advanced into Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued a "precise operation" targeting Hamas in eastern Rafah.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, conducted at least five attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM intercepted Houthi drones over the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Israeli ground forces advanced into Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 11.[1] The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 98th Division launched a re-clearing operation in Jabalia after Israeli intelligence assessed that Hamas and Palestinian militias were attempting to rebuild infrastructure in the area.[2] The IDF Air Force conducted about 30 airstrikes overnight, killing several Hamas fighters.[3] Israeli forces are currently operating east of Jabalia refugee camp, but CTP-ISW cannot confirm the IDF's path to the area.[4] The IDF issued evacuation orders for civilians in Jabalia on May 11.[5]

Palestinian militias defended against Israeli forces in eastern Jabalia. Hamas fighters conducted two separate complex attacks.[6] Hamas used a drone to drop an explosive onto an Israeli tank in eastern Jabalia.[7]

Palestinian militias defended against Israeli operations in Zaytoun on May 12. The IDF launched a re-clearing operation into the Zaytoun neighborhood on May 8, marking the third time that the IDF has conducted a clearing operation there.[8] Palestinian fighters attacked Israeli forces with mortar fire and RPGs in Zaytoun and along the Netzarim corridor on May 12.[9]

Palestinian militias wounded the Israeli Defense Ministry deputy comptroller in Zaytoun on May 10.[10] The comptroller, a brigadier general, is the highest ranking IDF officer wounded in the Gaza Strip during this war.[11] Palestinian militias killed five other Nahal Brigade soldiers in Zaytoun on May 10.[12]

Israeli forces continued a "precise operation" targeting Hamas in eastern Rafah on May 12.[13] The IDF Givati Brigade located and destroyed several tunnel shafts and rockets that Palestinian fighters had prepared to fire into Israel.[14] The IDF 401st Brigade identified ten armed Hamas fighters and directed an airstrike targeting them.[15] Israeli soldiers posted photos of the IDF inside the Rafah crossing.[16]

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) reported on May 12 that about 300,000 people have fled Rafah in the past week.[17] The estimate is consistent with the IDF’s estimation of the number of Gazans who have moved to the humanitarian zone north of Rafah.[18]

Israel opened a new border crossing in the northern Gaza Strip on May 12 to increase the flow of aid into the northern Strip.[19] The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)—a department within the Israeli Defense Ministry—said that it opened the crossing in coordination with the United States to increase aid flow into the northern Gaza Strip.[20] COGAT said that dozens of World Food Programme (WFP) trucks carrying flour left the Port of Ashdod for the Strip. The new crossing follows the WFP reporting that aid has not entered southern crossings to the Gaza Strip in several days.[21]

US Central Command commander Gen. Michael Kurilla met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi in Israel.[22] The commanders discussed unspecified operational developments and coordination between US and Israeli militaries.

Palestinian militias conducted four indirect fire attack from the Gaza Strip into Israel on May 12. Hamas conducted three rocket attacks targeting Ashkelon and Sderot.[23] One rocket landed in Ashkelon causing damage and injuring three people.[24] The IDF reported that its air defenses intercepted two munitions launched from Rafah toward Kerem Shalom.[25] Palestinian militias have conducted near daily indirect fire attacks targeting the Kerem Shalom area since May 5.[26] The IDF has said that Palestinian fighters are attempting to harm Israeli forces.[27] The IDF stated on May 8 that the attacks aim to prevent the Kerem Shalom crossing from functioning.[28] Kerem Shalom is the main entry point for humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's data cut off on May 11.[29] Israeli Army Radio reported that unspecified people set fire to a home in a Palestinian village and wrote “Regards from Binyamin” on the walls.[30] Palestinian media reported that Israeli settlers were responsible for the attack.[31]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least five attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 11.[32] Hezbollah conducted a drone attack on an Iron Dome platform in Beit Hillel on May 11, as CTP-ISW previously reported.[33] Hezbollah added on May 11 that it fired another drone targeting an area in Beit Hillel where Hezbollah believed Israeli officers would gather following the initial attack.[34] The IDF confirmed on May 11 that two drones fell in the Beit Hillel area without causing casualties.[35]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that a coalition aircraft intercepted a Houthi drone over the Gulf of Aden on May 10.[36] CENTCOM separately intercepted three Houthi drones over the Red Sea on May 11.[37] CENTCOM determined that the drones in both attacks presented an imminent threat to coalition forces and merchant vessels in the region.


Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF issued evacuation orders for civilians around Jabalia, northern Gaza Strip, due to Hamas reconstituting militarily there.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: The IDF issued expanded its evacuation orders for civilians around Rafah, extending the evacuation zone to two refugee camps and nearby neighborhoods.
  • West Bank: CTP-ISW did not record any engagements between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed one attack targeting Israel.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian militias defended against Israeli clearing operations in Zaytoun, southern Gaza City, on May 11. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched a re-clearing operation into the Zaytoun neighborhood on May 8, marking the third time that the IDF has conducted a clearing operation there.[1] Palestinian fighters attacked Israeli forces with small arms, improvised explosive devices, and mortar fire in Zaytoun.[2] The IDF Nahal Brigade located a large quantity of weapons, including some in a clinic, and killed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighter, who had participated in Hamas’ attack into Israel on October 7, 2023.[3]

The IDF issued evacuation orders for civilians around Jabalia, northern Gaza Strip, on May 11.[4]The IDF disseminated the orders with leaflets, text messages, phone calls, and via Arabic-language media broadcasts. Around 100,000-150,000 people live in the designated evacuation area.[5] The IDF said that it would operate in the evacuation area due to Hamas’ efforts to “rebuild its capabilities” there.[6] The IDF Air Force conducted airstrikes in Jabalia to shape the terrain for follow-on ground operations.[7] Israeli forces first advanced to the Jabalia refugee camp area in December 2023 and withdrew later that month.[8] CTP-ISW previously observed that Hamas cells have probably established a rear area in Jabalia and/or northern Shujaiaya, from which they can mount attacks on IDF units along the Israel-Gaza Strip border.[9]

Hamas remains determined to reassert its governing authority and reconstitute itself militarily in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has the space and personnel to do so in the northern Gaza Strip since Israeli forces withdrew and in the absence of a local alternative to Hamas rule. An Israeli military correspondent cited the IDF saying that the IDF will need to continually return to areas that it has previously cleared because Hamas military infrastructure remains there.[10] The resilience of Hamas and other Palestinian militias across the Gaza Strip supports CTP-ISW's assessment that Hamas will likely survive an IDF clearing operation into Rafah.

The IDF continued its limited operation into eastern Rafah on May 11. The IDF 401st Brigade, which seized the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on May 7, destroyed a Hamas rocket launch site on May 10.[11] Israeli ground and air elements destroyed Hamas tunnel shafts.[12] The IDF Givati Brigade also continued operations in eastern Rafah.[13] Hamas fighters fired an anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at an Israeli armored personnel carrier near the Rafah crossing.[14]

The IDF issued expanded its evacuation orders for civilians around Rafah on May 11, extending the evacuation zone to two refugee camps and nearby neighborhoods.[15] The IDF said that Hamas is active in the evacuation areas and told civilians to immediately go to the IDF-designated humanitarian zone north of Rafah. The IDF frequently issues evacuation orders ahead of expanding military operations.[16] The IDF reported that an estimated 300,000 Gazans have already moved to the humanitarian zone north of Rafah since the beginning of evacuations from eastern Rafah began on May 6.[17] Local Palestinians told the Wall Street Journal that space in the humanitarian zone north of Rafah has “filled up” amid rising prices of tents, gasoline, and rides to leave eastern Rafah.[18]

The World Food Programme (WFP) reported on May 10 that humanitarian aid has not entered the Gaza Strip from the southern border crossings in three days.[19] The WFP report follows a UN official stating on May 10 that no fuel and “virtually no” humanitarian aid has entered the Gaza Strip for five days.[20] UN officials reported that aid is not entering through the Kerem Shalom crossing due to heavy fighting in the area.[21] An unspecified senior official told Egyptian state news on May 11 that Egypt refuses to coordinate with Israel on the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip via the now Israeli-controlled Rafah crossing due to Israel’s “unacceptable escalation.”[22]

Egyptian sources said that unspecified negotiators will reconvene in Cairo or Doha early next week for ceasefire talks.[23] The latest round of talks concluded in Cairo on May 8 with both Israel and Hamas messaging that negotiations had stalled.[24]

Hamas claimed that a British-Israeli hostage died of wounds he sustained from an Israeli airstrike last month in the Gaza Strip.[25] Hamas took Nadav Popplewell hostage on October 7 from Nirim in southern Israel. The Office of the Israeli Prime Minister told CNN that it did not know whether Popplewell was alive or dead.[26]

Palestinian fighters conducted at least two indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel on May 11. The IDF reported that it intercepted one projectile and that three others fell in open areas near Kerem Shalom.[27] The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) claimed responsibility for two indirect fire attacks targeting Kerem Shalom.[28] Palestinian militias have conducted near daily indirect fire attacks targeting the Kerem Shalom area since May 5.[29] Israeli armored vehicles have gathered near Kerem Shalom, according to satellite imagery obtained by the Wall Street Journal.[30] The IDF has said that Palestinian fighters are attempting to harm Israeli forces and the functioning of the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is the main entry point for humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.[31]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

CTP-ISW did not record any engagements between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on May 10.

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 10.[32]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—has claimed one attack targeting Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 10.[33] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed to target the IDF Ramon airbase in the Negev desert using cruise missiles. CTP-ISW cannot verify that any claimed attacks occurred.


Click here to read the full report with maps

Andie Parry, Kelly Campa, Kathryn Tyson, Alexandra Braverman, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Liam Karr, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET 

Palestinian militias conducted at least 17 attacks targeting the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Zaytoun on May 10, suggesting that Hamas was able either to preserve or reconstitute military capability in Zaytoun despite IDF operations there.[1] The IDF launched a re-clearing operation into Zaytoun neighborhood, southern Gaza City, on May 8, marking the third time that the IDF has conducted a clearing operation there.[2] Hamas infiltrated and began reconstituting itself in the northern Strip after the IDF withdrew from the area in December 2023.[3] Hamas fighters used snipers, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars in five of the 17 attacks in the Zaytoun area.[4] This high rate of attacks is not consistent with a destroyed military force. A destroyed military force temporarily or permanently loses the will or means to fight.[5] Palestinian militias retain the will and the means to continue disrupting and defending against IDF raids, as evidenced by the rate of Palestinian militia attacks during this raid.

The resilience of Hamas and other Palestinian militia groups in Zaytoun is a strong indicator that an IDF operation in Rafah will not destroy Hamas. Hamas has survived as a military entity in the remainder of the Strip, including throughout the north. Hamas is active outside of Zaytoun in areas the IDF has not attempted to re-clear.[6] The group has conducted attacks targeting Israeli forces east of Jabalia, six kilometers north of Zaytoun.[7] These attacks indicate that Hamas cells have a rear area from which they can mount attacks on IDF units operating along the Gaza Strip-Israel border. These safe areas are probably in Jabalia or northern Shujaiya.[8] The IDF has not conducted operations in either of these areas since it began drawing down its forces in the Gaza Strip.

Iranian hardliners are continuing to discuss Iran’s ability to procure a nuclear weapon. A hardline Iranian member of parliament speculated that Iran had developed nuclear weapons in an interview on May 10.[9] Newly-elected Ahmad Bakhshayesh Ardestani told the moderate-aligned Rouydad 24 outlet that Iran had obtained nuclear weapons but had not and would not announce that it had nuclear weapons. Ardestani’s comments were speculative in nature, and he is likely unable to such information in his current role. Ardestani’s comments follow Strategic Foreign Relations Council Chairman Kamal Kharrazi‘s comment in an al Jazeera interview on May 9 that Iran will have “no choice” but to change its nuclear doctrine if Israel threatens Iran’s existence.[10] These statements align with International Atomic Energy Agency Chief Rafael Grossi’s May 8 comments that the agency was working ”very hard with [Iran] to prevent [nuclear weaponization] from happening,” suggesting that Iran has already obtained or is close to obtaining the ability to procure nuclear weapons.[11]

These discussions coincide with an April 2024 report that claimed that Iran is attempting to obtain 300 tons of uranium yellowcake from Niger.[12] A French investigative outlet reported on April 30 that Iran and Niger have been negotiating a deal since late 2023 for Iran to provide military drones and surface-to-air missiles in exchange for 300 tons of uranium yellowcake. This quantity is significant given that Iran announced in 2019 that it intended to produce 300 tons of yellowcake per year by 2024. A Nigerien delegation notably traveled to Tehran in January 2024 and signed unspecified agreements with Iranian officials, including Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani. Ashtiani is responsible for managing the Iranian defense industry, including arms procurement and sales. Niger ended its counterterrorism partnership with the United States in March 2024 after US officials accused Niger of secretly exploring a deal to allow Iran access to Nigerien uranium reserves. Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with the new Iranian ambassador to Niger on the same day that Niger suspended its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States.

Iranian-Zimbabwean cooperation has also increased in recent weeks amid Iranian hardliner comments about the Iranian nuclear program, as CTP previously reported.[13] Zimbabwe participated in the inaugural Iranian Nuclear Science and Technology Conference, for example, in Esfahan City between May 6-8.[14] The Times claimed in 2013 that Zimbabwe had signed an agreement with Iran to sell materials for Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which Zimbabwe has since denied.[15] No further reporting has corroborated The Times’ 2013 report.

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: The large number of Palestinian militia attacks in Zaytoun targeting Israeli forces suggests that Hamas was able either to preserve or reconstitute military capability in Zaytoun despite previous IDF operations there.
  • Iran: Iranian hardliners are continuing to discuss Iran’s ability to procure a nuclear weapon. These discussions coincide with an April 2024 report that claimed that Iran is attempting to obtain 300 tons of uranium yellowcake from Niger.
  • Rafah: The Israeli cabinet reportedly unanimously approved an expansion of the Rafah operation, but the IDF operations in Rafah remained limited on May 10.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed five attacks targeting Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cut-off on May 9.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The IDF 2nd Reservist Infantry Brigade and Nahal Brigade continued a limited raid targeting Palestinian militias in Zaytoun on May 10.[16] The IDF Nahal Brigade engaged Palestinian fighters at close range and directed airstrikes targeting fighters in Zaytoun.[17] Israeli forces seized small arms, ammunition, and Hamas intelligence material from a school in Zaytoun.[18] The IDF Air Force struck a building rigged to explode and other militia sites in Zaytoun.[19] Local Palestinian sources reported that Israeli armor operated near the Dawla Roundabout in Zaytoun.[20] Israeli forces previously operated in these specific zones of Zaytoun in two previous operations.[21]

Israeli forces continued to defend against Palestinian militia attacks on Netzarim Corridor on May 10. The 679th Brigade directed an airstrike on a Palestinian militia cell departing a munitions warehouse and approaching Israeli forces in the central Strip on May 10.[22] The IDF Air Force also struck the munitions warehouse.[23] Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP-GC) fighters fired rockets targeting Israeli positions on the Netzarim Corridor.[24] PFLP-GC is a Palestinian faction based primarily in Syria.[25] The faction receives support from Iran and has cooperated with other elements of the Axis of Resistance.[26]

The Israeli cabinet unanimously approved an expansion of IDF operations in Rafah on May 9, according to Israeli media.[27] Two unspecified sources with knowledge of the operational plans told Axios that the approved "measured expansion" does not cross US President Joe Biden’s "red line" for a “major military operation“ in Rafah.[28] A third source disagreed and said that the approved operation could be interpreted by the US as crossing Biden's red line.[29] US President Joe Biden said on May 8 that the United States will stop supplying Israel with certain weapons if Israel conducts a major military operation into Rafah.[30]

IDF operations in eastern Rafah remained limited on May 10. The IDF Givati Brigade (162nd Division) continued to operate in eastern Rafah to destroy militia infrastructure and clear the area.[31] The IDF has killed dozens of fighters, located tunnel shafts, and seized weapons since beginning limited clearing operations in eastern Rafah on May 7.[32] The IDF 401st Armored Brigade (162nd Division) also engaged several Palestinian militia cells near the Rafah crossing.[33]

Hamas defended against Israeli advances into eastern Rafah on May 10. Hamas conducted three tactically sophisticated attacks targeting Israeli forces in Rafah on May 10. One complex Hamas attack targeted Israeli forces with thermobaric bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, and anti-personnel rockets in a multi-stage attack.[34] Two other Hamas attacks targeted Israeli forces using a tunnel shaft and a pre-laid minefield near a military site in eastern Gaza, demonstrating that Palestinian fighters have prepared to slow the IDF advance into Rafah.[35] The sophisticated nature of these attacks required planning, coordination, and organization, further underscoring that the Hamas battalions in Rafah are cohesive fighting units that can mount a deliberate defense against Israeli clearing operations in the southern Gaza Strip.[36]

Palestinian militias, including Hamas, conducted 18 total attacks against an IDF advance into eastern Rafah on May 10.[37] The militias conducted at least eight mortar or rocket attacks targeting Israeli forces advancing through the eastern Rafah neighborhoods of al Shoka, al Salam, and al Bayuk on May 10.[38] Palestinian fighters also engaged Israeli forces eight times near a military site in the al Bayuk area along the Salah al Din Road.[39]

The IDF Air Force struck over 40 targets across the Gaza Strip on May 10.[40] IDF 143rd Division directed strikes on anti-tank munition firing positions and tunnel shafts throughout the strip.[41]

UN officials stated on May 10 that no fuel and “virtually no” humanitarian aid has entered the Gaza Strip for five days.[42] The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)—a department within the Israeli Defense Ministry—said that 200,000 liters of fuel entered the Kerem Shalom crossing on May 10.[43] UN officials told the Washington Post that the aid trucks that the IDF had allowed to enter through the Kerem Shalom crossing were unable to move further into the Gaza Strip due to heavy fighting near the crossing.[44] Palestinian militias conducted at least 18 attacks targeting Israeli forces in eastern Rafah on May 10.[45] The IDF previously closed the Kerem Shalom crossing on May 5 after a Hamas rocket attack killed four Israeli soldiers nearby.[46] The IDF reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing on May 8 to allow humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip.[47]

Palestinian militias conducted seven indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip targeting southern Israel on May 10. Hamas fighters conducted five of the seven attacks, including two separate rocket barrages on Beer Sheva and a mortar attack on a military site near Kerem Shalom.[48] Israeli media reported the Hamas rocket barrages on Beer Sheva caused material damage and one injury.[49] Two smaller Palestinian militias allied with Hamas in the war targeted southern Israel.[50]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least one location in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's data cut off on May 9.[51] Unspecified fighters fired small arms targeting Israeli forces during Israeli operations in Rafidia, near Nablus.[52]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least eight attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 9.[53] This number of attacks is consistent with Hezbollah’s daily rate of attacks over the last week. Hezbollah fired at least 20 rockets targeting Kiryat Shmona on May 10. This rocket attack caused damage to buildings in the area.[54]

The IDF Northern Command conducted several military exercises in northern Israel on May 10 to simulate combat in Lebanon.[55] Units from the 91st Division and Etzion Brigade (36th Division) participated in the exercises, which included practicing coordination in mountainous terrain and resupplying “maneuvering forces” by air.[56] The IDF said that the exercises are meant to improve readiness for a potential conflict in northern Israel.

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed five attacks targeting Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cut-off on May 9.[57] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed three drone attacks targeting the “Elifalet” base near Safed in northern Israel, an Israeli gas platform in the Mediterranean Sea, and Ovda Airbase in Eilat, Israel.[58] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq also claimed two drone attacks targeting a separate IDF base and an unspecified “vital target” in Eilat, Israel.[59] CTP-ISW cannot verify that any claimed attacks occurred.

Iran held runoff parliamentary elections for the remaining 45 seats in Iran’s parliament on April 10.[60] The first round of Iranian parliamentary elections on March 1 resulted in hardliners winning 200 out of 245 seats.[61] The March 1 election had a record-low voter turnout of 41% in Iran.[62] The runoff election will elect the remaining 45 representatives, including 16 representatives for Tehran province, from a pool of 90 total candidates.[63] Fifteen of the 90 regime-approved candidates are moderates. The results of the runoff election will likely be announced by May 13.[64] The runoff elections will most likely preserve hardliner control of the parliament and maintain hardliner influence within the Iranian leadership. CTP-ISW previously assessed that the Iranian regime is continuing to engineer national elections to consolidate hardline influence in the political establishment.[65]


Iran Update, May 9, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, Kathryn Tyson, Johanna Moore, Kelly Campa, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. Click here to see CTP and ISW’s interactive map of Israeli ground operations. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

CTP-ISW defines the “Axis of Resistance” as the unconventional alliance that Iran has cultivated in the Middle East since the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979. This transnational coalition is comprised of state, semi-state, and non-state actors that cooperate to secure their collective interests. Tehran considers itself to be both part of the alliance and its leader. Iran furnishes these groups with varying levels of financial, military, and political support in exchange for some degree of influence or control over their actions. Some are traditional proxies that are highly responsive to Iranian direction, while others are partners over which Iran exerts more limited influence. Members of the Axis of Resistance are united by their grand strategic objectives, which include eroding and eventually expelling American influence from the Middle East, destroying the Israeli state, or both. Pursuing these objectives and supporting the Axis of Resistance to those ends have become cornerstones of Iranian regional strategy.

We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Israeli forces are re-clearing parts of the northern Gaza Strip, demonstrating that Hamas remains active beyond just Rafah.[1] The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched a clearing operation into Zaytoun neighborhood, southern Gaza City, on May 8, marking the third time that the IDF has conducted a clearing operation there.[2] The IDF began by conducting airstrikes targeting Palestinian militia observation posts, sniper positions and tunnels.[3] Three IDF brigades subsequently entered the area.[4] These brigades have since then engaged Palestinian militias, including Hamas, in Zaytoun as well as in nearby Sabra neighborhood and along the Netzarim corridor.[5] A Palestinian social media account reported that civilians are evacuating areas in and around Zaytoun since the Israeli clearing operation began there.[6]

This most recent Israeli clearing operation highlights that Hamas remains active and combat effective in the northern Gaza Strip, despite repeated Israeli clearing efforts there. Hamas infiltrated and began reconstituting itself in the northern part of the strip after the IDF withdrew from the area in December 2023.[7] Hamas has since then conducted dozens of attacks targeting Israeli forces in and around the northern Gaza Strip.[8] Hamas is almost certainly trying to reconstitute around Khan Younis since the IDF left there in April 2024.

Hamas’ remaining presence throughout the Gaza Strip supports CTP-ISW's assessment that Hamas expects that it would survive an Israeli clearing operation into Rafah.[9] Hamas likely calculates that it could rebuild itself in Rafah in the same way that it is currently in the northern Gaza Strip. This confidence has informed Hamas’ decision to maintain its maximalist ceasefire demands since December 2023.

An Israeli Army Radio correspondent noted that the IDF will need to continue to conduct clearing operations around the Gaza Strip until there are serious conversations about a replacement to Hamas as a local governing authority.[10] The absence of a governing authority, including a local security force besides Hamas, will provide Hamas space and time to reassert itself in the strip.

Iran and Zimbabwe have held a flurry of meetings in recent weeks to discuss economic, military, and political cooperation. Zimbabwean Science and Technology Minister Amon Murwira has most recently led a delegation to attend an international technology exhibition in Tehran between May 7-10.[11] The exhibition is at least ostensibly meant to promote business cooperation between Iranian and foreign companies. The Iranian Defense Industries Training and Research Institute is participating in the exhibition, suggesting that Iran wants to use the event to promote military cooperation as well.[12] The institute, which operates under the Iranian Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ministry, is responsible for designing military equipment and systems and working with foreign partners to gain technical knowledge of advanced weapons systems.[13] Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Director Mohammad Eslami previously served as the head of this institute.[14] Murwira met with the Iranian vice president for science, technology, and the knowledge-based economy on the sidelines of the exhibition on May 8.[15]

This exhibition follows other recent engagements between Iran and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, among other Iranian officials, in Tehran in late April 2024.[16] Zimbabwe also participated in the inaugural Iranian Nuclear Science and Technology Conference in Esfahan City between May 6-8.[17] [18]

Key Takeaways:

 

  • Northern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces are re-clearing parts of the northern Gaza Strip, demonstrating that Hamas remains active beyond just Rafah.
  • Iran: Iran and Zimbabwe have held a flurry of meetings in recent weeks to discuss economic, military, and political cooperation.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: US President Joe Biden said that the United States will stop supplying Israel with certain weapons if Israel conducts a major military operation into Rafah.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least one location in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed three attacks targeting Israel.
  • Syria: Israel was likely responsible for an airstrike targeting a Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba site in Sayyida Zeinab, Syria.
  • Yemen: Houthi supreme leader Abdul Malik al Houthi said during a speech that the Houthis would escalate attacks against Israel following Israel’s limited operation into Rafah.

Iran Update, May 8, 2024

click here to read the full report with maps

Andie Parry, Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, Kathryn Tyson, Annika Ganzeveld, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET
Hamas’ leaders have very likely calculated that Hamas will survive a Rafah operation and that Hamas should therefore pursue its maximalist ceasefire demands without major concessions. Hamas’ maximalist ceasefire demands appear to have solidified as the IDF drew down its forces in the Gaza Strip beginning in late December 2023.[1] The drawdown indicated to Hamas that the group was winning by forcing the IDF from the Strip. Sinwar indicated to senior Hamas officials in February 2024 that the Hamas was “doing fine” and were “ready for...Rafah.”[2] Sinwar did not fear a Rafah operation because the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the northern Gaza Strip meant Hamas‘ remaining forces in the north would survive. Sinwar’s position almost certainly solidified in April after the remainder of IDF units withdrew from Khan Younis, permanently leaving only one brigade south of Gaza City in the Netzarim Corridor.[3] The withdrawal from Khan Younis will enable Hamas fighters to flee north as the Israeli operation begins.

Hamas introduced a ceasefire counterproposal on May 6 with two key changes that Israel had not accepted. The Hamas-proposed ceasefire includes two key stipulations that would satisfy Hamas’ maximalist demands: an end to the Israeli “blockade” and a permanent end to the war.[4] These conditions were not in the purported original text that Israel helped Egypt craft on April 26.[5] Hamas “accepted” the deal with the new stipulations after meeting with mediators in a series of meetings from May 3 to May 5.[6] Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar weighed in on the proposed deal on May 3 to raise several desired edits according to Arab mediators speaking to the Wall Street Journal.[7] A senior Hamas official spoke negatively about the proposal on May 2 before Hamas added the stipulations.[8] Israeli officials were not part of these early May meetings and only received the edited text an hour after Hamas “agreed” to the deal.[9] US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller characterized Hamas’ May 6 response as ”a counterproposal” that contained amendments to the original framework on May 7.[10]

The additional demands that Hamas introduced in the May 6 ceasefire counterproposal secure both Hamas’ survival and its ability to reconstitute by limiting Israel’s ability to disrupt supplies bound for Hamas. Hamas could use the end of an aid inspections regime to smuggle in new weapons and supplies to repair the parts of the tunnel system destroyed during the war.[11] A “permanent” truce would provide Hamas the time and space to reconstitute itself militarily and reassert its political authority in the Gaza Strip.[12] Hamas would break a ceasefire of any length at a time and for reasons of its own choosing because it desires to destroy Israel.[13] Hamas sees control of the Gaza Strip as a prerequisite to the destruction of Israel. Hamas’ survival as a military and political entity remains an unacceptable outcome to this war.

Hamas will likely survive a major Israeli operation in Rafah if a major operation occurs. Hamas infiltrated and then rebuilt itself in areas that the IDF withdrew from in December 2023 and April 2024.[14] Hamas units in these areas have conducted dozens of attacks targeting Israeli forces attempting to re-clear areas that the IDF had previously cleared.[15] Hamas and other militias have also mortared Israeli forces holding static positions in the central Gaza Strip’s Netzarim Corridor.[16] Hamas units outside of Rafah have also reportedly coordinated among themselves to conduct operations against the IDF by coordinating meetings between brigade and battalion commanders.[17] Hamas will survive a Rafah operation because it continues to operate from and control other territory in the Gaza Strip outside of Rafah.

 

A decapitation strategy aimed at killing Hamas’ senior leaders will not defeat or destroy Hamas. Israel may kill Yahya Sinwar during a major operation in Rafah, but his death will not achieve Israeli objectives. The United States pursued a decapitation strategy in its campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. This US strategy was not successful in destroying terrorist organizations in either country. ISIS and al Qaeda retained the ability to reconstitute themselves multiple times in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.[18] A decapitation strategy can degrade a terrorist organization, but cannot destroy one, particularly one as large, established, and well-organized as Hamas.[19]

Israel and Hamas said separately on May 8 that ceasefire negotiations are stalled after new talks in Cairo. Unspecified Israeli officials told Reuters that Israel sees no sign of a breakthrough in ceasefire talks, but that their delegation will remain in Cairo "for now.”[20] A media advisor to Hamas’ Political Bureau accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “procrastinating” in ceasefire talks.[21] The Hamas official also said that the Hamas delegation left Cairo for Doha to assess the situation.

US Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns discussed ceasefire and hostage negotiations with Netanyahu in Israel on May 7.[22] Burns also met with Israeli Mossad Director David Barnea in Israel.[23] Burns was recently in Cairo for the latest round of ceasefire negotiations.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ceasefire Negotiations: Hamas’ leaders have very likely calculated that Hamas will survive a Rafah operation and that Hamas should therefore pursue its maximalist ceasefire demands without major concessions. Both Hamas and Israel said on May 8 that talks are stalled.
  • Hamas After Rafah: Hamas will likely survive a major Israeli operation in Rafah if a major operation occurs because Hamas continues to control and operate from territory in the Gaza Strip outside of Rafah.
  • United States-Israel Relations: The limited Israeli operation to seize the Rafah crossing does not require a shift in US policy toward the war, according to US officials. The US Secretary of Defense confirmed that the United States paused a munitions shipment bound for Israel, however.
  • Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued a limited operation targeting Hamas fighters and infrastructure in eastern Rafah on May 8.
  • Iraq: The IDF confirmed that it intercepted an “aerial target” approaching Israel from the east after Iranian-backed militias in Iraq claimed a drone attack targeting southern Israel.
  • Yemen: CENTCOM reported that the Houthis conducted four attacks targeting maritime shipping on May 6 and 7.

Iran Update, May 7, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Ashka Jhaveri, Alexandra Braverman, Kathryn Tyson, Andie Parry, Kelly Campa, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Israeli forces launched a limited ground operation to control the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces advanced into eastern Rafah and took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that it began a “precise, intelligence-based counterterrorism operation” aimed at eliminating Hamas military infrastructure in eastern Rafah.[1] The IDF reported that Hamas fired mortars from the Rafah crossing into Israel on May 5, killing four Israeli soldiers and wounding others.[2] Israeli forces advanced along the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip to the Rafah border crossing and took “operational control” of the area.[3] Israeli media reported that the IDF chose to capture the crossing given its role in smuggling advanced weapons between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in the past.[4] CTP-ISW has not observed instances of weapons smuggling between the Gaza Strip and Egypt during the current war.

Hamas reported that its fighters fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an Israeli tank and proceeded to fire small arms at Israeli soldiers in al Shoka al Sufi neighborhood north of the Rafah crossing.[5] Several other Palestinian fighters fired rockets and mortars targeting Israeli forces advancing in eastern Rafah.[6] The IDF reported that Palestinian fighters drove an explosive-laden car toward an IDF tank before Israeli forces struck it.[7] Israeli forces killed approximately 20 Palestinian fighters overnight and located three tunnel shafts.[8]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on May 7 that Israeli forces are operating in Rafah and will continue “until the absolute victory.”[9] Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz said the Israeli military operation in Rafah will ”continue and expand as necessary.”[10] The US State Department spokesperson said that the Israeli operation to the Rafah crossing appears to be limited at this time, but that it ”does look like a prelude of a major military operation.”[11] The operation followed Israeli evacuation orders for approximately 100,000 Gazans in eastern Rafah. These evacuation orders instructed the Gazans to temporarily evacuate to the humanitarian zone north of Rafah.[12] Israeli tanks entered the Gaza Strip after Hamas altered and then approved the ceasefire agreement on May 6.[13]

Hamas acknowledged that the deal it “accepted” on May 6 satisfied its maximalist demands.[14] Indirect ceasefire negotiations continued between Israel and Hamas in Cairo on May 7. Israel did not receive the proposal on May 6 until an hour after Hamas “accepted” the deal.[15] Hamas and Israel both sent delegations to the May 7 indirect talks.[16] The ongoing talks suggest that Hamas’ May 6 “accepted” proposal is better understood as a new counterproposal for a maximalist ceasefire. Hamas has not changed its maximalist demands in negotiations since December 2023. Hamas senior official Osama Hamdan acknowledged on May 7 that Hamas had not altered these maximalist demands in its latest proposal and that it had “set red lines that cannot be touched or given up.”[17] Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz said that the Israeli delegation “doesn’t just have a mandate to listen—it has an obligation to turn over every stone and act to bring about an outline.”[18]

Hamas’ high-level delegation arrived in Cairo on May 7 after Israeli forces began a limited ground operation in Rafah.[19] Hamas threatened on May 6 to halt negotiations if Israeli forces began a ground operation into Rafah.[20]

Iranian officials appear increasingly confident in their view that the Axis of Resistance has the advantage against Israel and will ultimately destroy Israel. Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami said during a speech commemorating the April 1 death of senior IRGC commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi in an Israeli airstrike that Israel is “approaching the end of its political life” despite the West’s support for Israel.[21] Salami added that Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel represented a complete intelligence failure by Israel that showed how “vulnerable some countries are to a limited invasion.” Salami added that the October 7 attack pushed Israel to the “brink of death.” Salami’s statement follows an interview from Maj. Gen. Gholam Ali Rashid, who is the commander of the Iranian Khatam ol Anbia Central Headquarters, in which Rashid described a multi-front ground attack into Israel that could destroy the Israeli state.[22] Salami, in an earlier interview in August 2022, described a very similar concept that included successive ground attacks into Israel on multiple fronts with increasing frequency.[23]

Iranian and Axis of Resistance officials are also placing increasing emphasis on operations in the Mediterranean Sea. Salami stated that Iran and the Axis of Resistance are “closing the way for the enemy” in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.[24] Other Iranian and Axis of Resistance officials have made similar claims recently. The Houthi movement announced on May 3 that it commenced the “fourth phase” of escalation against Israel by targeting ships in the Mediterranean Sea.[25] A top Iranian military adviser to the supreme leader said in March that the Mediterranean Sea is part of Iran’s strategic depth and that Tehran must accordingly “increase [its] strategic depth [by] 5,000 kilometers.”[26] Five thousand kilometers from Iran would extend to the Strait of Gibraltar. These statements suggest that Iran and its regional partners are putting an increased emphasis on the Mediterranean as an arena in which it could pressure Israel and others as needed.

Key Takeaways:

 

  • Gaza Strip: Israeli forces launched a limited ground operation to control the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
  • Ceasefire Negotiations: Hamas acknowledged that the deal it “accepted” on May 6 satisfied its maximalist demands. Israel did not receive the proposal that Hamas accepted until one hour after Hamas accepted the deal on May 6.
  • Iranian Views of the War: Iranian officials appear increasingly confident in their view that the Axis of Resistance has the advantage against Israel and will ultimately destroy Israel.
  • Iraq: The Iraqi Kurdistan Region president is on a rare visit to Tehran and met with the IRGC commander.
  • Lebanon: The IRGC Quds Force commander reportedly traveled to Lebanon in April, possibly to coordinate with Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah after the death of the primary Quds Force interlocutor with Hezbollah in an Israeli airstrike on April.

Iran Update, May 6, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Andie Parry, Alexandra Braverman, Annika Ganzeveld, Kathryn Tyson, Kelly Campa, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 4:00pm ET

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began conducting targeted airstrikes against Palestinian militias in eastern Rafah on May 6.[1] IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari stated on May 6 that the IDF Air Force struck 50 targets around Rafah in the past day as part of preparations for a clearing operation into Rafah.[2] Local journalists posted geolocated footage from May 5 and 6 showing extensive Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire into eastern Rafah.[3] An Israeli Army Radio journalist reported that the airstrikes killed at least 30 Palestinians in Rafah overnight.[4] The IDF Air Force has previously conducted airstrike waves as part of shaping efforts to enable ground maneuvers necessary to clearing operations.[5]

Israeli officials suggested on May 6 that an Israeli clearing operation into eastern Rafah is imminent. The Office of the Israeli Prime Minister announced on May 6 that Israel would “continue the operation in Rafah to exert military pressure on Hamas” to achieve Israeli war aims.[6] An official in the Israeli war cabinet told Israeli media that the Rafah operation will likely start “this week.”[7] Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, and the head of the IDF Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Oded Basiuk, discussed “the IDF’s expected operational plans in the Gaza Strip, with an emphasis on the Rafah area” on May 6.[8] Gallant previously told Israeli forces in the central Gaza Strip on May 5 that he anticipates “a powerful operation in Rafah in the near future" because Israel has “identified signs that Hamas does not intend” to reach a ceasefire agreement with Israel.[9] A Hamas senior official said on May 6 that an Israeli clearing operation into Rafah would “put negotiations in jeopardy” and threatened a strong military response.[10]

The IDF issued evacuation orders on May 6 for the parts of eastern Rafah targeted by the Israeli air campaign.[11] The IDF estimates that 100,000 Gazans are currently in this area.[12] The evacuation order directed the evacuees to an expanded “humanitarian services area” in Khan Younis.[13] The IDF first announced the expansion of the al Mawasi humanitarian zone on April 28 but announced additional details on May 6 about the services available in the expanded area.[14] The IDF says the zone north of Rafah “includes field hospitals, tents, and increased amounts of food, water, medicine, and other supplies.”[15] Israeli ground forces have cleared much of the area to which evacuees are instructed to move. The IDF also warned Gazans against approaching the Egyptian or Israeli borders and that north of Wadi Gaza is “still a dangerous combat zone.”[16] An Israeli Army Radio correspondent noted that the evacuation zone covers three Hamas battalions' areas of responsibility.[17]

Hamas altered and then approved the Egyptian-proposed ceasefire agreement on May 6.[18] Hamas framed itself as approving the original agreement rather than the altered one. Hamas officials told al Jazeera that they accepted “the proposal put forth by international mediators,” while Israeli media reported that Hamas had significantly changed the text of the agreement since Egypt and Israel iterated on April 26.[19] An anonymous Israeli official told Axios that the altered text is “practically a new proposal.”[20]

Hamas added stipulations to the agreement for a permanent ceasefire and the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.[21] CTP-ISW has previously assessed, however, that Hamas would not likely adhere to the permanent ceasefire for which it is advocating given that Hamas has violated previous ceasefires and that Hamas remains committed to destroying Israel. Hamas has not changed its maximalist demands in negotiations since December 2023.

Hamas also changed in the agreement the pace at which Hamas would release Israeli hostages. Hamas said that it would release three hostages every week, while the original Egyptian-proposed agreement involved Hamas releasing three hostages every three days.[22]

Israeli leaders rejected the new agreement that Hamas submitted.[23] The Israeli war cabinet framed the altered text as “far from Israel’s essential demands.” The Office of the Israeli Prime Minister stated that it will send a delegation to continue negotiations.

A senior Iranian military officer described how Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” could destroy Israel with a multi-front ground attack. Maj. Gen. Gholam Ali Rashid, who is the commander of the Iranian Khatam ol Anbia Central Headquarters, discussed the Iranian theory on how to destroy Israel in an interview with English-language, Tehran-based Iran Daily on May 5.[24] Rashid asserted that the Hamas attack into Israel in October 2023 highlighted Israeli vulnerability and the weakness of the IDF. Rashid argued that Hamas’ attack affirmed that the Axis of Resistance could destroy Israel by launching surprise attacks from Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank simultaneously. He added that such an attack would involve 10,000 fighters from Lebanon, 10,000 fighters from the Gaza Strip, and 2,000–3,000 from the West Bank. Rashid likened such an attack to the Beit ol Moghaddas operation that Iran conducted to liberate Khorramshahr during the Iran-Iraq War. This interview with Rashid is especially noteworthy given his role in commanding the Khatam ol Anbia Central Headquarters, which is the highest Iranian operational headquarters and is responsible for joint and wartime operations.[25]

Rashid’s comments echo a similar strategic concept that IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami articulated in August 2022.[26] Salami described his idea of how to destroy Israel during an interview with the official website of the Office of the Supreme Leader. Salami stated that the Axis of Resistance should conduct ground attacks into Israel from multiple fronts and with increasing frequency. Salami argued that such attacks would generate internal displacement and instability and ultimately collapse the Israeli state. Rashid’s interview suggests that Iranian military leadership is continuing to develop this idea and refining it based on lessons from the Israel-Hamas war.

Rashid’s comments also signaled confidence that the Axis of Resistance has the advantage against Israel and will ultimately defeat it in the current war.[27] This message was likely part of an information operation meant for Western consumption given that Rashid gave these comments to an English-language outlet.

Rashid separately repeated the Iranian regime argument that it could have inflicted greater damage on Israel during its drone and missile attack on April 13, 2024.[28] Rashid argued that Israel would collapse without Western support and that 80 percent of the Iranian projectiles would have struck Israel if the United States and its partners did not intercept any. Rashid also repeated the regime assertion that the IRGC Aerospace Force used only “20 percent of its offensive capabilities” in the attack.[29] Other senior IRGC officials have made similar arguments in recent days, emphasizing that Iran could have launched a larger drone and missile attack than it did against Israel.[30]

Key Takeaways:

 

  • Gaza Strip: Israeli forces began conducting targeted airstrikes against Hamas in eastern Rafah. Israeli officials have suggested that a clearing operation into the area is imminent.
  • Ceasefire negotiations: Hamas altered and approved the text of the Egyptian-proposed ceasefire deal. Israeli officials said the altered text is “far from Israel’s essential demands.”
  • Iran: A senior Iranian military officer described how Iran and the Axis of Resistance could destroy Israel with a multi-front ground attack. The comments suggest Iran is continuing to develop and refine its theory on how to destroy Israel.
  • Iraq: A member of an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia suggested that Iranian-backed forces may soon resume their attacks on US forces.

Iran Update, May 5, 2024

click here to read the full report with maps

Andie Parry, Johanna Moore, Annika Ganzeveld and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

ISW-CTP will publish abbreviated updates on May 4 and 5, 2024. Detailed coverage will resume on Monday, May 6, 2024.

The Israeli defense minister said that Israel does not believe Hamas will agree to a ceasefire. The Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Israeli forces in the central Gaza Strip on May 5 that he anticipates “a powerful operation in Rafah in the near future" because Israel has “identified signs that Hamas does not intend” to agree to a ceasefire.[1] Gallant made the comment during a visit to the Netzarim Corridor.[2] The IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi visited the central Gaza Strip on May 3 to tour IDF positions and discuss IDF operations with IDF Southern Command commander Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman and 99th Division commander Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram.[3] Halevi told the IDF 2nd Infantry Brigade and 679th Armored Brigades that "we have many more tasks ahead of us."[4]

Hamas highlighted its maximalist ceasefire demands in two official statements on May 5.[5] A Hamas negotiating delegation left Cairo to consult with Hamas leadership about the ceasefire talks on May 5.[6] An unspecified official with knowledge of the negotiations told Israeli media on May 5 that talks are “near collapse” after the Hamas delegation left Cairo.[7] Hamas did acknowledge that the talks are continuing. Hamas said that it delivered its response to Egyptian and Qatari mediators and held “in-depth and serious discussions” about the response.[8] Hamas’ May 5 statement reiterated the group’s maximalist and unchanged negotiating position, which maintains that any ceasefire needs to “completely” end the war, accomplish a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, return displaced Palestinians to the northern Gaza Strip, intensify aid and reconstruction, and complete a hostage-for-prisoner swap.[9] Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh said on May 5 that Hamas is interested in reaching a “comprehensive interconnected agreement” but questioned the function of an agreement “if a ceasefire is not its first outcome.”[10]

Hamas fighters targeted Israeli forces near Kerem Shalom with indirect fire from Rafah on May 5.[11] Hamas fired at least 10 short range 114mm rockets and mortars.[12] A Hamas military wing source told Palestinian media that the attack targeted an IDF “operational headquarters responsible for coordinating artillery attacks on Rafah.“[13] Local Israeli government officials said that the rockets struck an open area near a military position and caused injuries.[14] An Israeli Army Radio correspondent said that the attack injured at least 10 people.[15] The IDF said that Hamas fired the rockets from a site about 350 meters from civilian shelters. The IDF Air Force struck the launch site shortly after the attack.[16]  The IDF closed the Kerem Shalom crossing and inspection point in response to the rocket attack.[17] The Kerem Shalom crossing functions as the main entry point of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. It remains unclear how long the IDF will keep the crossing closed.

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: A Hamas rocket attack forced the IDF to pause operations at a key aid inspection site in southern Israel.
  • Ceasefire Negotiations: The Israeli defense minister said that Israel does not believe Hamas will agree to a ceasefire. Hamas highlighted its maximalist ceasefire demands in two official statements on May 5.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least one location in the West Bank on May 4 after CTP-ISW's last data cut off.
  • Lebanon: Iranian-backed fighters, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least 11 attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 4.


Kathryn Tyson, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Hamas and Qatari delegations arrived in Cairo to discuss the current ceasefire proposal on May 4.[1] Hamas is expected to present an official response to the proposal during the discussions.[2] Arab mediators told the Wall Street Journal that the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said on May 3 that the proposed deal is the closest deal to Hamas’ demands so far, but Sinwar raised several conditions.[3] Hamas Political Bureau member Ghazi Hamad said that the group is still considering the proposal and considering its response.[4] Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Mardawi told Palestinian media on May 3 that Hamas is skeptical that Israel will implement the ceasefire deal given internal Israeli politics.[5] Israel has not sent a delegation to participate in the talks, but an unnamed Israeli official said that Israel will send a delegation to Cairo if there is “positive movement” on the Hamas side regarding a deal.[6]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: Four Palestinian militias conducted at least eight indirect fire attacks targeting Israeli forces along the Netzarim corridor on May 3 and 4.
  • Ceasefire Negotiations: Hamas is expected to present an official response to the proposal during the current ceasefire talks. A senior Hamas official said that Hamas is skeptical Israel will implement the ceasefire given internal Israeli politics.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 3.
  • Lebanon: Iranian-backed fighters, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least five attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 3.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and the public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Four Palestinian militias conducted at least eight indirect fire attacks targeting Israeli forces along the Netzarim corridor on May 3 and 4.[7] Israeli forces have established forward positions along the Netzarim corridor to facilitate future raids into the northern Gaza Strip.[8] Palestinian militias have claimed almost daily attacks targeting Israeli forces near the Netzarim corridor since April 18.[9]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) struck Palestinian militia infrastructure in the central Gaza Strip on May 4. The IDF Air Force, in coordination with the 215th Artillery Brigade (162nd Division) conducted airstrikes targeting mortar launchers in an unspecified area in the central Gaza Strip.[10] The IDF Navy struck unspecified targets in the central Gaza Strip to support the IDF 99th Division there.[11]

The IDF Air Force struck Palestinian militia infrastructure and other unspecified targets in the southern Gaza Strip on May 4. The IDF Air Force conducted airstrikes targeting a Hamas rocket launcher in an unspecified area in the southern Gaza Strip.[12] The IDF Air Force struck unspecified targets near a launch site in Khan Younis.[13] The IDF said that it conducted the strikes after it identified an unspecified launch from the area towards Ein Hashlosha, which fell in an open area.[14]

Unspecified Palestinian fighters conducted an indirect fire attack targeting Ein Hashlosha.[15]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 3.[16] Israeli security forces conducted an overnight raid in Deir al Ghusoun targeting a militia cell barricaded in a building.[17] Israeli forces fired on the building and demolished it.[18] Local footage showed Israeli forces raiding the building and the arrest of at least one individual.[19] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade targeted Israeli forces with “machine guns“ and improvised explosive devices (IED) during the raid.[20] The IDF killed five Palestinian fighters.[21]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Iranian-backed fighters, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least five attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 3.[22]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Nothing Significant to Report.


Click here to read the full report with maps

Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, Annika Ganzeveld, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

The Houthi movement said it will expand targeting of maritime shipping into the Mediterranean Sea, which is probably part of an Iranian-led effort to impose an unofficial economic blockade on Israel. The Houthi movement announced on May 3 that it will begin targeting ships in the eastern Mediterranean that are bound for Israel.[1] The Houthi military spokesperson called this the “fourth phase of escalation.” The Houthis' Shahed-136 can reach the eastern Mediterranean.[2] Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” have repeatedly called for an unofficial blockade on Israel in recent months.[3] Tehran and its allies appear to be operating on the theory that severe economic disruption would compel Israel to accept defeat in the Gaza Strip and that such economic pressure could ultimately collapse the Israeli state. Iranian leaders have repeatedly said in recent months that part of their theory on how to destroy Israel revolves around stoking instability and terror in Israel to catalyze reverse migration away from Israel.[4]

The Houthis will likely fail to disrupt trade around Israel’s Mediterranean ports in the same way that the Houthis did around the Red Sea. The Houthis have been somewhat successful in decreasing the number of imports entering Israel from the port of Eliat. Eilat saw an 80 to 85% drop in revenue between November and December 2023.[5] The Houthis can achieve this effect because the movement can launch dozens of short-range drones and missiles into the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The distances involved in targeting the Mediterranean Sea means that the Houthis have a much more limited suite of munitions to choose from and thus a more limited stockpile of individual systems to use. The Houthis also presumably lack a robust targeting regime in the Mediterranean Sea, whereas the Iranian Behshad supports Houthi targeting in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.[6]

The same capabilities that enable the Houthis to target the Mediterranean to impose costs on Israel can be used in future conflicts—including or excluding Israel—to threaten maritime shipping and impose costs on the West. Both the Houthis and Iran have expressed aspirations to improve their capabilities to enable attacks into the Indian Ocean and Straits of Gibraltar, thus preventing shipping from entering the Mediterranean Sea or traveling around the Cape of Good Hope.[7] Attacks targeting these shipping lanes could severely impact global shipping prices. The Houthis or Iran could improve upon the capabilities they are currently employing in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to impose economic costs on the West in the future. The Houthis and Iran could impose these costs at times and for reasons of their own choosing.

Hamas is delaying its response to an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire that satisfies Hamas’ maximalist demands. The ceasefire proposal includes a three-phased plan for the release of Israeli hostages, a ceasefire lasting up to five years, and the gradual withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip. Hamas believes any ceasefire is an interim “rest” before Israel’s ultimate destruction.[8] The head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, is the key decision-maker in the negotiations because he has control over Hamas’ forces in the Gaza Strip. Egyptian officials told the Wall Street Journal on May 3 that Sinwar has not yet responded to the proposal.[9] Sinwar has previously refused ceasefire proposals.[10] US and Israeli officials have noted since April 2024 that Hamas has been intransigent in negotiations and refusing to agree to a ceasefire despite Israeli concessions.[11]

The Netanyahu government is seeking regional involvement in a post-war plan for the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu’s government is considering shared “oversight” of the Gaza Strip with the United States and some Arab countries after the war according to Israeli officials cited by The New York Times.[12] The United States, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates would share responsibility for redevelopment, education, and security in the Gaza Strip for a period lasting between seven to ten years. Gazans would vote to join a unified Palestinian state with the West Bank after the oversight period. The proposal does not specify if the unified government would constitute a sovereign Palestinian state according to The New York Times. Unspecified Arab officials have rejected the plan because it does not outline a clear path towards a Palestinian state. Israel would share these responsibilities in exchange for diplomatic normalization with Saudi Arabia.

Key Takeaways:

  • Yemen: The Houthi movement said it will expand its attacks into the eastern Mediterranean. The Houthis' Shahed-136 can reach the eastern Mediterranean, but Houthi attacks into the Mediterranean will probably be less effective than their attacks into the Red Sea.
  • The same capabilities that enable the Houthis to target the Mediterranean to impose costs on Israel can be used in future conflicts—including or excluding Israel—to threaten maritime shipping and impose costs on the West.
  • Ceasefire Negotiation: Hamas is slowing its response to an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire that satisfies Hamas’ maximalist demands.
  • Post-War Gaza Strip: The Netanyahu government is seeking Saudi, Emirati, US, and Egyptian involvement in the post-war Gaza Strip.
  • Military Operations in the Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias conducted indirect fire attacks targeting Israeli forces in the Netzarim corridor.
  • West Bank: Israeli security services seized a shipment of smuggled M4/M16 rifle components. These components cannot be assembled into complete rifles, but their existence implies additional shipments with the remaining components for a complete rifle.
  • Iran: The Tehran interim prayer leader said that Iran’s April 13 attack targeting Israel served as a useful cross-border exercise between Iran and its regional partner and proxy militias. This suggests that Iran is learning from the April 13 attack to improve its capabilities for future operations.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian militias have targeted Israeli forces with mortar and rocket fire at least four times in the northern Gaza Strip since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on May 2. The National Resistance Brigades and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighters mortared Israeli forces operating in Sheikh Ajlin, in southwest Gaza City.[13] PIJ fighters also mortared Israeli forces in an unspecified area of the Netzarim corridor.[14] Hamas fighters targeted Israeli forces in the Netzarim corridor using its Rajum rocket platform.[15]

Hamas launched one rocket attack targeting Nirim on May 3.[16]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 2.[17] Unspecified Palestinian fighters clashed with Israeli forces near Tulkarm on May 2 according to Palestinian media.[18] The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade targeted Israeli forces and armored vehicles in Jaba, Jenin governorate, with ”machine guns” on May 3.[19]

The IDF interdicted a shipment of smuggled M4/M16 rifle components in an unspecified area of the Jordan Valley on May 3.[20] The IDF reported it seized 14 bolt carrier groups and 30 upper receivers for M4/M16-pattern rifles. The individual pieces interdicted are not enough on their own to assemble an entire weapon. Smugglers have presumably tried or will try to smuggle the remaining 16 bolt carrier groups not in the shipment and the additional necessary pieces for a complete rifle into the West Bank. Israeli forces arrested the weapons smugglers.[21] Unnamed Israeli officials have previously acknowledged that Israeli forces are not able to interdict every smuggling attempt at the Jordanian border[22]

The United Kingdom imposed sanctions on May 3 on four individual Israeli settlers and two settler groups for inciting and perpetrating violence against Palestinian communities in the West Bank.[23] The United Kingdom stated that the groups and individuals were responsible for perpetrating human rights abuses.

Shin Bet arrested a 35-year-old Israeli settler on May 3 suspected for his involvement in the murder of a Palestinian man in April 2024.[24] Israel arrested the man in relation to settler violence targeting Palestinians in the West Bank following the kidnapping and subsequent murder of an Israeli boy on April 12.[25]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Iranian-backed fighters, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least five attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 2.[26] The IDF stated that Hezbollah fired a barrage of at least 10 rockets from Lebanon targeting unspecified sites near Mount Meron on May 3.[27] Israeli media reported that Hezbollah fired approximately 18 rockets towards the Mount Meron area.[28] The IDF said that the rockets landed in open areas without injuries or material damage.[29]

The IDF reported that it intercepted a drone over Julis, Lebanon on May 3. Unspecified fighters launched it from Lebanon on May 3.[30]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Israel likely conducted an airstrike targeting a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) building south of Sayyida Zeinab, Rif Dimashq, on May 2. Syrian media reported that Israel conducted an airstrike targeting a Syrian state security headquarters near Najha, Rif Dimashq, resulting in the destruction of the building.[31] The Syrian Ministry of Defense stated that Israel’s airstrike injured eight SAA soldiers and caused material damage.[32] An unnamed Syrian security source told Reuters that the strike targeted a building operated by Syrian security forces and denied that Lebanese Hezbollah or Iranian forces operated the site.[33]

Iranian Armed Forces General Staff Deputy Chief Brig. Gen. Aziz Nasir Zadeh discussed expanding military and defense cooperation with Azerbaijani Deputy Defense Minister Karam Mustafayev in Tehran on May 3.[34] Mustafayev is also the army commander of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which is an Azerbaijani exclave in western Armenia.[35] The Iranian regime has historically opposed Azerbaijani and Turkish efforts to establish the Zangezur corridor between Azerbaijan proper and Nakhchivan because such a corridor would sever Iran’s land access to Russia and Europe via Armenia.[36] It is unclear whether Armenia’s growing estrangement with Russia has changed Iran’s position on this issue, however. Azerbaijan and Iran agreed in October 2023 to build a transportation route between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan via Iranian territory as an alternative to the Zangezur Corridor.[37]

Tehran Interim Friday Prayer Leader Mohammad Hassan Abu Torabi Fard stated on May 3 that Iran’s recent drone and missile attack targeting Israel was an “exceptional opportunity” to display Iranian military capabilities.[38] Torabi Fard added that the display of Iranian weapons in the attack could "create wealth” for Iran. These statements are consistent with CTP-ISW's assessment that Iran is using its attack on Israel to promote Iranian military exports.[39] Torabi Fard also stated that Iran’s attack on Israel was a "valuable experience” for Iran’s Axis of Resistance. He described the attack as a "large cross-border exercise.”[40] Torabi Fard’s characterization of the attack as a military exercise is consistent with CTP-ISW's assessment that the Iranian regime is very likely studying its attack on Israel to understand how to defeat US and partner air defenses in the future.[41]

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it conducted two long-range missile attacks targeting Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv on May 2.[42] Israeli officials and media have not commented on the attacks at the time of this writing. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed that it used “Arqab” cruise missiles in the attacks.[43] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq previously claimed two “Arqab” cruise missile attacks targeting Israel in January 2024.[44] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq separately claimed that it conducted an attack targeting an unspecified “vital target” in the Dead Sea using “appropriate weapons.”[45]

Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Asaib Ahl al Haq Leader Qais al Khazali reiterated that Iraq needs to expel foreign forces during a speech on May 3 for the anniversary of Asaib Ahl al Haq’s founding.[46] Khazali also emphasized the need to achieve “monetary sovereignty” and to elect a new parliament speaker.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) conducted a preemptive strike targeting three one-way attack drones in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on May 2.[47] CENTCOM determined that these systems presented an imminent threat to US, coalition, and merchant vessels in the region.


Iran Update, May 2, 2024

Kathryn Tyson, Amin Soltani, Annika Ganzeveld, Johanna Moore, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Brian Carter, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

A Lebanese media outlet published on May 1 the purported text of the Egyptian-proposed ceasefire agreement that Hamas is considering.[1] The reported proposal addresses all of Hamas’ maximalist demands except for a permanent ceasefire.[2] Hamas would not likely adhere to a permanent ceasefire, however, given that Hamas has violated previous ceasefires and that Hamas remains committed to destroying Israel.[3]

The purported Egyptian-proposed ceasefire agreement contains three phases and meets Hamas’ demands for a temporary ceasefire, the release of Palestinian prisoners, the delivery of more humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and the reconstruction of the strip.[4] The first 40-day phase would require Hamas to release at least 33 living Israeli hostages who are elderly, female, or injured in exchange for a temporary pause in fighting. The first phase also stipulates that the IDF withdraw eastward away from the populated areas of the Gaza Strip. The IDF would conduct a phased withdrawal from most of the Netzarim corridor to allow displaced Gazans to return to the northern Gaza Strip. Israel would furthermore allow the entry of 500 aid trucks into the Gaza Strip daily and cease aerial surveillance of the strip for parts of the day. Israel and Hamas would enter indirect negotiations to “restore sustainable calm” after the 16th day of the pause in fighting. Egyptian sources indicated to Western media that the “sustainable calm” could last up to a year.[5] The second phase of the proposed ceasefire reportedly stipulates that Hamas would release the remaining male Israeli civilians and soldiers in exchange for a full IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the release of an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners. The third phase includes both sides exchanging dead bodies and the implementation of a five-year rehabilitation plan for the Gaza Strip. Hamas would be barred from rebuilding its military infrastructure during the five-year period, according to the Lebanese report.

Hamas has repeatedly refused to accept any ceasefire that does not meet its maximalist demands.[6] Hamas has not changed these demands since December 2023.[7] Hamas Political Bureau member Osama Hamdan said in an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated media on May 2 that Hamas’ position on the ceasefire proposal is “negative” and that Hamas would stop negotiating if Israel launches a clearing operation into Rafah.[8]

Accepting the ceasefire is inherently contradictory to Hamas’ objective of destroying Israel.[9] Hamas initiated the current war by breaking a period of relative calm in its attack into Israel on October 7, 2023. A “permanent” truce would provide Hamas time to reconstitute itself militarily and reassert its political authority in the Gaza Strip, which CTP-ISW has previously assessed Hamas is trying to do.[10]

An Iranian-backed Bahraini militia claimed to have conducted a drone strike on the Israeli port city of Eilat on April 27.[11] Saraya al Ashtar claimed the strike on May 2 and said that it targeted the headquarters of Israeli transportation company Trucknet Enterprise in Eilat.[12] There is no definitive evidence at this time that the group conducted an attack, though Saraya al Ashtar published a video of its fighters launching a drone in an unspecified location.[13] Saraya al Ashtar suggested that it was part of a larger group called the Islamic Resistance in Bahrain and vowed that it would continue its attacks until Israel ends its military operations in the Gaza Strip.[14] This statement marks the first time that Saraya al Ashtar has signaled its participation in the Israel-Hamas war.

The claimed attack is part of the Iranian-led campaign to impose an unofficial blockade on Israel. Saraya al Ashtar emphasized the role of Trucknet Enterprise in facilitating Israeli overland trade.[15] Trucknet Enterprise signed several agreements with Emirati companies in December 2023 to organize overland trade to the Persian Gulf and to mitigate the impact of Houthi attacks on international shipping.[16] Houthi attacks have reduced commercial operations at the port of Eilat and thus driven Israel to rely more on land routes through Jordan and the Gulf states to the Persian Gulf.[17] Saraya al Ashtar likely claimed the attack, regardless of whether it occurred, to deter companies and the Gulf states from supporting overland Israeli trade.

Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” have repeatedly called for an unofficial blockade on Israel in recent months.[18] Houthi attacks on international shipping are part of this effort. Iran has also threatened the United Arab Emirates for cooperating with Israel, and Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have emphasized the need to severe the Israeli “land bridge” that passes through Jordan.[19] Tehran and its allies appear to be operating on the theory that severe economic disruption would compel Israel to accept defeat in the Gaza Strip and that such economic pressure could ultimately collapse the Israeli state. Iranian leaders have repeatedly said in recent months that part of their theory on how to destroy Israel revolves around stoking instability and terror in Israel to catalyze reverse migration away from Israel.

Saray al Ashtar claiming a drone attack marks the first time that the group has indicated that it has drone capabilities. Some observers noted that the drone that Saraya al Ashtar showed in its video resembles the Houthi Samad-2/3 drones, which have a range of around 1,500 kilometers.[20] Saraya al Ashtar could threaten numerous US and partner positions throughout the Arabian Peninsula with that capability.

The Houthi supreme leader emphasized that the Houthis would continue their attacks against Israel and its interests until the destruction of the Israeli state. His remarks demonstrate that the Houthis will remain a serious threat to international shipping even in the event of a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Houthi supreme leader Abdulmalik al Houthi gave a speech on May 2 reaffirming his grand strategic objective of destroying Israel and describing the key role that he sees the Houthis having in achieving this goal.[21] Abdulmalik stated that a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip would only mean the “completion of this round of escalation” and that the long-term conflict against Israel would continue. Abdulmalik added that the Houthis will continue to support the Palestinian militias fighting Israel until “the end of [Israeli] control over Palestine and the cleansing” of Israeli people from Israeli territory.[22]

Iran is trying to use its military exports as a vehicle for expanding its influence in Africa. A French investigative outlet reported on April 30 that Iran and Niger have been negotiating a deal since late 2023 for Iran to provide military drones and surface-to-air missiles in exchange for 300 tons of uranium yellowcake.[23] This quantity is especially significant given that Iran announced in 2019 its intent to produce that much yellowcake—300 tons—per year by 2024.[24] A Nigerien delegation notably traveled to Tehran in January 2024 and signed unspecified agreements with Iranian officials, including Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani.[25] Ashtiani is responsible for managing the Iranian defense industry as well as arms procurement and sales. Niger ended its counterterrorism partnership with the United States in March 2024 after US officials accused Niger of secretly exploring a deal to allow Iran access to Nigerien uranium reserves.[26] Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with the new Iranian ambassador to Niger, Ali Tiztak, the same day that Niger suspended its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States.[27]

The Iranian negotiations with Niger come after Tehran similarly tried to use its defense exports to expand its influence in Sudan. Iran has supplied the Sudanese Armed Forces with drones, such as the Mohajer-6, to use against the Emirati-backed Rapid Support Forces.[28] Western media reported in March 2024 that Iran requested Sudanese permission to establish a permanent naval base on the Red Sea in return for a helicopter-carrying warship.[29] CTP-ISW assessed at the time that Iran would use a naval base in Sudan to support out-of-area naval operations and attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea.[30]

The Iranian effort to expand its influence in Africa is especially noteworthy given that Iran recently hosted representatives from over 40 African countries during its second annual Iran-Africa Trade Summit from April 26-29.[31] Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, among other Iranian officials, met with the prime minister of Burkina Faso and vice president of Zimbabwe on the sidelines of the summit.[32] The Zimbabwean vice president also discussed expanding military cooperation during a meeting with the Iranian defense minister, Ashtiani, on April 29.[33]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: A Lebanese media outlet published the purported text of the Egyptian-proposed ceasefire deal that Hamas is considering. The agreement addresses almost all of Hamas’ demands except for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Hamas would likely violate a permanent ceasefire, however.
  • Bahrain: An Iranian-backed Bahraini militia claimed to have conducted a drone strike on the Israeli port city of Eilat. The claimed attack is part of the Iranian-led campaign to impose an unofficial blockade on Israel. The Bahraini militia claiming a drone attack marks the first time that the group has indicated that it has drone capabilities.
  • Yemen: The Houthi supreme leader emphasized that the Houthis would continue their attacks against Israel and its interests until the destruction of the Israeli state. His remarks demonstrate that the Houthis will remain a serious threat to international shipping even in the event of a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
  • Africa: Iran is trying to use its military exports as a vehicle for expanding its influence in Africa. Iran and Niger are negotiating over a deal that would send Iranian weapons to Niger in exchange for Iranian access to Nigerien uranium reserves. Iran previously tried to use its military exports to Sudan to receive Sudanese permission to establish an Iranian naval base on the Red Sea.



Iran Update, May 1, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Amin Soltani, Andie Parry, Annika Ganzeveld, Kathryn Tyson, Kelly Campa, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Several Iranian military leaders boasted on May 1 that they could strike Israel with a drone and missile attack much larger than what they launched on April 13 and thus inflict greater damage on Israel.[1] IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami suggested that Iran could have launched two or three additional waves of drones and missiles against Israel and that each successive wave would have reduced the efficacy of US and partner air defenses.[2] IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajji Zadeh similarly asserted that his service used “only 20 percent of [its] strength” in the April 13 drone and missile attack.[3] CTP-ISW has previously assessed that Iran modeled its April 13 attack on recent Russian attacks in Ukraine and that Iran designed its strike package to defeat Israeli air defenses, even though the United States and its partners intercepted around 99 percent of the projectiles. Iranian leaders are almost certainly studying the April 13 attack to learn lessons and understand how to defeat US and partner air defenses in the future.[4]

Several senior Iranian military officers, including Salami, separately framed the April 13 drone and missile attack as successful in that it demonstrated Iranian willingness to now attack Israel directly.[5] These statements echo similar remarks from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on April 22, during which he praised senior military commanders for their role in the attack and said that “the willpower of the Iranian nation and armed forces” matters more than how many munitions Iran launched or how many munitions hit their target.[6] These statements are also consistent with Salami and other regime officials saying in recent weeks that Iran has adopted a new policy of targeting Israel directly in retaliation for Israeli attacks on Iranian interests.[7]

Hamas asked international mediators to clarify the terms of two sections of the new Egyptian-proposed ceasefire proposal, according to an Egyptian official speaking to Israeli media.[8] Hamas requested assurances that the second stage of the deal would facilitate the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and requested clarification on the unconditional return of displaced Gazans to the northern Gaza Strip.[9] Egyptian sources speaking to a United Kingdom-based, Qatari-owned outlet said that an Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo on April 30 to discuss Hamas’ concerns and amendments to the deal.[10] The Egyptian officials expect that Hamas will deliver its final response to the deal "at the end of the week."[11]

Key Takeaways:

 

  • Iran: Iranian military leaders emphasized that they could hit Israel with a drone and missile attack much greater than what they launched on April 13. Iranian leaders are likely studying their April 13 attack to learn lessons and understand how to more effectively penetrate US and partner air defenses.
  • Gaza Strip: Hamas is considering an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire deal and has requested clarification on some of its contents. Egyptian officials expect a Hamas response to the deal in the coming days. Hamas has not changed its maximalist demands since December 2023.
  • West Bank: Jordan accused Israeli settlers of attacking a humanitarian aid convoy traveling through the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. The IDF afterward imposed a “closed military zone” where the attack occurred.
  • Yemen: The United States conducted a preemptive strike targeting a Houthi uncrewed surface vessel in Yemen. The United States determined that the vessel posed an imminent threat to US forces and nearby commercial traffic.

Iran Update, April 30, 2024

Click here to read the full report

Andie Parry, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Alexandra Braverman, Johanna Moore, Amin Soltani, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Russia and China are hosting talks to facilitate Hamas’ inclusion in the Palestinian Authority, which would result in a Hamas-influenced government in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. China hosted senior Hamas and Fatah officials in Beijing on April 26 to discuss “intra-Palestinian reconciliation” and to “strive for the early realization of Palestinian unity and reunification.”[1] Russia also facilitated Hamas-Fatah talks in February 2024 that sought to achieve “Palestinian unity.”[2] An unspecified Palestinian official told the New York Times that senior Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk and Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al Ahmad participated in the China-hosted talks.[3]

Both the Chinese and the Russian efforts to achieve “Palestinian unity” mirrors a plan laid out by Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh on April 21 that called for a “consensus government.” Haniyeh set out a framework on April 21 for Palestinian governance that would require the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to include Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in its leadership and for Palestinian political factions to form a consensus government that unifies the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.[4] A consensus government would be influenced by Hamas and PIJ in both the West Bank and Gaza. This influence could allow both groups to help facilitate smuggling of weapons and other military supplies into the West Bank. Hamas — after gaining control over the Palestinian Authority government in the 2006 Palestinian Elections — subsequently undermined Fatah’s security forces and executed a military takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007.[5] Fatah is unlikely to agree to a reconciliation agreement with Hamas in any case, given the lack of trust between the two sides stemming from the 2007 Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and several subsequent failed attempts at reconciliation.

Israeli political and military officials suggested that an Israeli clearing operation into Rafah could begin within the next few days. Unspecified security officials told Israeli Army Radio that the operation into Rafah will begin if Hamas does not accept the current Egyptian ceasefire proposal.[6] Other Israeli media sites circulated unsourced reports on April 29 that the IDF would begin an operation into Rafah in the next two to three days if a hostage deal is not reached.[7] An unspecified Israeli official told Agence France-Presse on April 30 that Israel would wait until May 1 for Hamas’ response to the proposal.[8] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated during a meeting with the families of hostages held in the Gaza Strip that the IDF “will enter Rafah and eliminate the Hamas battalions there — with or without a deal.”[9] A family member that attended the meeting said that they understood from Netanyahu's comments that “it is not a question of whether Rafah is or is not going to happen.”[10] Far-right minister Itamar Ben Gvir similarly said on April 30 that Netanyahu “promised [in a private meeting] that Israel would go into Rafah” and that there would not be a “reckless” ceasefire deal.[11] Ben Gvir “warned” Netanyahu of the consequences of failing to clear Rafah during the meeting.[12] Finance Minister Bezal Smotrich, a far-right ally of Ben Gvir, threatened Netanyahu on April 29 that “a government headed by you will have no right to exist” if it failed to defeat Hamas.[13]

The IDF indicated on April 30 that two divisions are ready for a ground operation into Rafah. The IDF said on April 30 that the 162nd and 98th divisions “completed combat readiness operations” and their commanders approved operational plans for future operations in the Gaza Strip.[14] Both divisions have conducted combat operations in the Gaza Strip since October 27. Israeli media claimed on April 29 that IDF armor is “lined up on the Gaza Strip border” and ready to begin the offensive into Rafah.[15] IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi approved operational plans “for the continuation of the war” — presumably including an operation into Rafah — during meetings at IDF Southern Command on April 28.[16]

Netanyahu also confirmed on April 30 that the IDF had begun the humanitarian evacuation of Rafah.[17] The IDF expanded its humanitarian zone in the southern Gaza Strip on April 28.[18] Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on April 15 that Israel would evacuate Rafah before beginning clearing operations there.[19] A senior United Nations official told the Wall Street Journal that a civilian evacuation from Rafah to other parts of Gaza would take at least 10 days.[20]

Hamas is continuing to consider an Egyptian ceasefire proposal that could enact a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip of up to a year.[21] Egyptian sources told the Wall Street Journal that Hamas would need to release at least 20 living hostages before the second phase of the deal, which includes a year-long “sustained calm.”[22] Hamas delegates in Cairo reportedly said that the proposal currently fails to provide clear guarantees that Israel is serious about the second phase of the deal.[23] A senior Hamas official speaking to a UK-based, Qatari-owned outlet said that the Hamas leadership abroad and Hamas leadership in Gaza have been in communication about the ceasefire proposal and are “preparing the final response.”[24] The Hamas official noted that Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the other Palestinian factions fighting in the Gaza Strip are contributing to the response. Hamas is the leader of a 12-militia coalition that coordinates politically and militarily.[25] PIJ Deputy Secretary General Muhammad al Hindi told Hamas-affiliated Quds News on April 29 that the Palestinian factions had discussed the ceasefire and that Hamas’ demands of an Israeli withdrawal and a full ceasefire “are clear.”[26]

A BBC report published on April 29 detailed the uncoordinated and brutal way in which Iranian security personnel killed a 16-year-old girl participating in the 2022 protest wave, citing a “highly confidential” IRGC document.[27] The BBC identified the document as a report summarizing a five-hour, IRGC-held hearing on the killing of Nika Shakarami, a 16-year-old girl. The document confirmed that three members of Ansar-e Hezbollah — a semi-official, regime vigilante group — molested and killed Shakarami for participating in the Woman, Life, Freedom movement in September 2022. The report claimed that the personnel detained, abused, and killed Shakarami in their vehicle after spotting her at an anti-regime protest. IRGC Capt. Mohammad Zamani instructed the team to dump Shakarami’s deceased body on a Tehran street to avoid mounting casualties recorded at security stations. Zamani said that he had “already had deaths in [his] station, and [he did not] want the number to rise to 20.” This statement illustrates the culpability of this IRGC officer and his entire chain of command in Shakarami’s death. The regime later claimed that Shakarami killed herself.[28] The regime frequently disposed of dead protestors or delayed family access to the bodies of dead protesters during the Mahsa Amini movement.[29]

A senior former Iranian intelligence officer helped the BBC verify the authenticity of the report. The BBC offered details about how this official corroborated the document such as checking an IRGC archive by using a daily code issued to senior intelligence officers. The individual also called an Iranian government official within Iran's military apparatus to authenticate the report.[30]

This report corroborates some of CTP’s assessments made during its coverage of the Mahsa Amini movement, including that the protests caused security bandwidth constraints, exhaustion, and low morale.[31] The report cited by the BBC suggests an extraordinary level of incompetence from security personnel, including that Iranian security forces feared Shakarami and 14 other female protesters’ potential to “cause a [prison] riot.”[32] Ansar-e Hezbollah’s participation in protest suppression also suggests that the regime was facing bandwidth constraints due to the protests. The IRGC uses and works with Ansar-e Hezbollah members, although the group sometimes operates outside of the IRGC’s jurisdiction in an extra-legal capacity.[33] Ansar-e Hezbollah has previously threatened, kidnapped, and killed regime dissidents but has not played a prominent role in quashing anti-regime protests in recent years.[34] The group’s participation in suppressing the Mahsa Amini protest movement is particularly noteworthy within this context.

The BBC’s April 29 report further highlights CTP’s long-standing observation that the regime enables and empowers the killing of its citizens.[35] The IRGC document stated that Shakarami’s killing did not result in disciplinary action because the incident involved the participation of Ansar-e Hezbollah members instead of IRGC officers. The IRGC officer who oversaw the Ansar-e Hezbollah members and instructed them to dump Shakarami’s body received only a “written reprimand.”[36]

Increased instability and anti-regime militancy in eastern Iran are driving a change in the Iranian regime’s calculus and prioritization of threats along its eastern border. Jaish al Adl—a Baloch, Salafi-jihadi group—has conducted a series of attacks targeting Iranian security services in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, Iran, since December 2023, including a major complex attack on April 14.[37] The Afghan branch of the Islamic State has also conducted several major attacks in Iran since October 2022, including a double suicide vest attack targeting an event in January 2024 commemorating the death of Qassem Soleimani.[38] Iran has responded to these events by employing new capabilities and investing substantial resources to address the increasingly tenuous security environment along its eastern border. Iran used drones to target a vehicle carrying “anti-Iran militants” in Sistan and Baluchistan Province on April 25.[39] The use of a drone to target these fighters is unprecedented, suggesting that the Iranian regime is increasing the number of resources it is devoting to fighting militancy in southeastern Iran. Iran announced two days later that it would fund a $3 billion border wall along Iran’s northeastern border with Afghanistan, which presumably includes the northernmost section of Sistan and Baluchistan Province.[40] This wall is unlikely to be effective, given its length and the fact that it will not extend along the Pakistani border. The Iranian decision to devote resources towards building the wall does indicate the increasing priority Iran’s regime is giving to the security situation in southeastern Iran, however.

The regime’s recent and historical mistreatment of the Sunni Baloch population inside Sistan and Baluchistan Province has further exacerbated these security challenges. Iranian security forces violently suppressed Sunni Baloch protesters in Zahedan, Sistan, and Baluchistan province in September 2022 in an event that became known as “Bloody Friday.”[41] This mistreatment provides fertile ground for groups like Jaish al Adl to recruit fighters and benefit from tacit support, further limiting the effectiveness of the planned border wall. Jaish al Adl vowed in early October 2022 that it would retaliate against the Iranian regime for killing protesters and “enter the field with all its power.”[42] Prominent Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid severely criticized the regime during his weekly Friday Prayer sermons and led Zahedan residents in anti-regime protests on a weekly basis after the “Bloody Friday” incident.[43] The regime’s negligent development of resources and infrastructure in the province has left it critically underdeveloped, which has long fueled anti-regime sentiment and protest among the Balochi population.[44] Separatist Balochi militant organizations have long sought to separate Sistan and Baluchistan Province from Iran in response to these perceived grievances.[45]

Iran is also pursuing diplomatic measures to counteract the increasing threat on Iran’s southeastern border with Pakistan. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi discussed regional instability and other matters with various senior Pakistani officials including the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Asim Munir on April 23-25.[46] Raisi and Munir also discussed increasing cooperation between the Iranian and Pakistani armed forces.[47] Raisi’s trip to Pakistan illustrated Iran’s diplomatic efforts to respond to a real and perceived threat change.

Key Takeaways:

  • Fatah-Hamas Meeting in China: Russia and China are pursuing Hamas’ inclusion in the Palestinian Authority, which would result in a Hamas-influenced government in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Russia and China’s pursuit of “Palestinian unity” mirror a plan laid out by Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh on April 21 that called for a ”consensus government.”
  • Rafah: An Israeli clearing operation into Rafah could begin within the next few days. The IDF indicated on April 30 that two divisions are ready for a ground operation into Rafah.
  • Ceasefire Negotiations: Hamas is considering an Egyptian proposal that offers a year-long ceasefire if Hamas releases at least 20 hostages alive.
  • Iran: Leaked IRGC documents analyzed by the BBC detailed the uncoordinated and brutal way in which Iranian security personnel abused and killed a 16-year-old girl during the 2022 protest wave. The IRGC’s subsequent cover up of the killing demonstrates that the regime is culpable for her death.
  • Militancy in Southeastern Iran: Increased anti-regime militancy in eastern Iran is driving a change in how the regime prioritizes threats along its eastern border.
  • Humanitarian Aid in Gaza: The US military began constructing the floating pier off the coast of the Gaza Strip some time in late April. US CENTCOM published photos of the construction on April 29.

 

Iran Update, April 29, 2024

click here to read the full report

Andie Parry, Annika Ganzeveld, Alexandra Braverman, Kathryn Tyson, Kelly Campa, Talia Tayoun, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Hamas is considering a new Egyptian ceasefire proposal that would require Hamas to release 20 to 33 living Israeli hostages.[1] Egyptian officials reportedly sent Hamas the proposal on April 26 after Egyptian intelligence officials met with the IDF chief of staff and Shin Bet head in Egypt and Israel.[2] Hamas acknowledged that it received the proposal on April 27 and framed it as a “response” to Hamas’ maximalist demands, which have not changed since December 2023. Hamas sent Israel a reiteration of its unchanging, maximalist demands on April 13 after the previous round of negotiations.[3] A Hamas delegation reportedly arrived in Cairo on April 29 to discuss the latest Egyptian proposal. An Israeli delegation is expected to travel to Cairo to continue talks on April 30.[4]

Unspecified Israeli officials stated that the proposal contains several Israeli concessions. This proposal includes an Israeli willingness to discuss a “full return of displaced Palestinians to their homes in northern Gaza” and the withdrawal of the IDF from the Netzarim corridor that bisects the Gaza Strip.[5] The corridor is the only area in the Gaza Strip where Israeli forces are currently deployed.[6] Axios reported that the first phase of the proposal involves a ceasefire lasting one day for each hostage that Hamas releases.[7] The Israel war cabinet reportedly allowed negotiators to lower the number of hostages demanded after Hamas claimed that it does not have 40 living hostages that are elderly, female, or injured.[8] An unspecified Israeli official said that the war cabinet changed its position due to assessments “that some of the 40 hostages whose release Israel was demanding have died in Hamas captivity.”[9] The proposal also includes provisions for the potential release of “thousands” of Palestinian prisoners, according to British Foreign Secretary David Cameron.[10] The proposal also reportedly contains a second phase that prescribes a “period of sustained calm,” although what exactly that calm would entail is unclear.[11] An anonymous Hamas official told Agence France-Presse that Hamas has “no material problems with the current deal proposal” on April 28.[12]

International mediators have expressed hope that Hamas will accept the proposal. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Israel as being “extraordinarily generous” in the proposal and called for Hamas to “make the right decision” and “quickly” on April 29.[13] Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry said on April 29 that Egypt is “hopeful” about the new truce proposal.[14]

Palestinian militias threatened to target “foreign forces” deployed into or on the coast of the Gaza Strip. The secular leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Popular Resistance Committees—both Palestinian groups fighting alongside Hamas in the war—explicitly threatened UK forces in their statements on April 27 and 28, respectively.[15] The BBC reported on April 27 that UK troops may deploy to the Gaza Strip to assist with humanitarian aid distribution.[16] The PFLP statement called for humanitarian aid to be brought into the Gaza Strip through “official crossings” and “under Palestinian management and supervision.”[17] These statements follow Hamas Political Bureau Deputy Chairman Khalil al Hayya’s interview on April 25 during which he implied that Hamas would attack any non-Palestinian presence around the Gaza Strip “at sea or on land.”[18] At least one US Navy vessel is stationed off the coast of the Gaza Strip at the time of this writing.[19]

Iran is hosting an international trade exhibition between April 27 and May 1 as part of its effort to undermine Western sanctions by increasing Iranian exports and economic cooperation with other countries. Delegations from at least 26 countries, including Burkina Faso, North Korea, Russia, and Zimbabwe, attended the exhibition.[20] The exhibition has showcased Iranian agricultural, electrical, medical, and petrochemical products.[21] Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani emphasized on April 29 that the Iranian Industry, Mining, and Trade Ministry invited North Korea to participate in the exhibition.[22] A North Korean economic and political delegation traveled to Tehran on April 23, marking the first North Korean visit to Iran since 2019.[23] Kanani dismissed allegations that the North Korean delegation is visiting Iran to expand military cooperation with Tehran, describing these allegations as “biased speculation” and “baseless.”[24] Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber separately called for expanding economic ties and conducting trade in local currencies during meetings with the vice president of Zimbabwe and the prime minister of Burkina Faso on the sidelines of the exhibition on April 27.[25] Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi previously traveled to Zimbabwe in July 2023 and signed 12 cooperation agreements, including an energy agreement, with Zimbabwean officials.[26]

Iran appears especially focused on possible arms deals with regional and extra-regional actors. Iranian Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani discussed military cooperation in separate meetings with his Indian and Kazakh counterparts on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Astana on April 26 and 27.[27] Ashtiani separately expressed readiness to increase cooperation with Zimbabwe while meeting Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga in Tehran on April 29.[28] Ashtiani, in his role as defense minister, is primarily responsible for managing arms procurement and sales and the Iranian defense industrial base. Iranian leaders have intensified their efforts in recent years to export military assets in order to generate revenue for the ill-fairing Iranian economy and increasing Iranian influence abroad.

Key Takeaways:

  • Political Negotiations: Hamas is considering an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire deal that would have Hamas release 20 to 33 Israeli hostages alive. Western outlets reported the proposal involves new Israeli concessions. Hamas has not changed its maximalist position in the negotiations since December 2023.
  • Iran: Delegations from Russia, North Korea, and several African countries, among others, have traveled to Tehran for an international trade exhibition. The exhibition is part of the Iranian effort to undermine Western sanctions by increasing Iranian exports and economic cooperation with other countries. Iran remains particularly focused on selling military equipment.
  • Gaza Strip: The World Central Kitchen announced the resumption of its humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip. The IDF separately announced the expansion of its humanitarian zone in the southern Gaza Strip.
  • Iraq: Some Iraqi parliamentarians have backed a motion to designate the US ambassador to Iraq as a persona non grata. The parliamentarians are responding to the ambassador condemning a newly passed law that criminalizes homosexuality in Iraq.
  • Syria: The Syrian regime reportedly deployed forces to Suwayda Province, as anti-regime activity has continued mounting there. Anti-regime protests have fluctuated across the province since August 2023.

 

Iran Update, April 28, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Andie Parry, Alexandra Braverman, Annika Ganzeveld and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi approved operational plans “for the continuation of the war” during a visit to IDF Southern Command on April 28.[1] He discussed the plans with IDF Southern Command commander Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman and division and brigade commanders. An Israeli war correspondent said that Rafah was “on the agenda” of the meeting.[2] Israeli media claimed that Halevi approved plans “for a major operation into Rafah” during the meeting.[3]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: The IDF Chief of Staff reportedly approved plans for a major operation into Rafah during a meeting with the IDF Southern Command commander and division and brigade commanders.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations across the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last information cutoff on April 27.
  • Lebanon: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 27.

Iran Update, April 27, 2024

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Johanna Moore, Amin Soltani, Annika Ganzeveld, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to target Palestinian fighters and militia infrastructure across the Gaza Strip.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations across the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last information cutoff on April 26.
  • Lebanon: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 26.
  • Yemen: The Houthis launched three ballistic missiles targeting two commercial vessels in the Red Sea on April 26.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it launched one drone targeting an unspecified “vital target” in Haifa on April 26.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and the public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Israeli forces continued to target Palestinian fighters and militia infrastructure across the Gaza Strip. The IDF Air Force struck over 25 militia targets across the Gaza Strip since CTP-ISW's last information cut off on April 26.[1] The 679th Armored Brigade directed an airstrike targeting Palestinian fighters who the IDF said were preparing to fire at Israeli forces from a building in an unspecified area of the Central Gaza Strip.[2] The IDF Air Force targeted a vehicle transporting eight Hamas fighters in the central Gaza Strip.[3] The IDF Air Force also struck a rocket or mortar launch position in Khan Younis as Palestinian fighters prepared to fire from the position.[4]

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine targeted Israeli forces east of Khan Younis.[5]

The IDF reported on April 27 that the Israeli Defense Ministry began construction of a humanitarian aid distribution area on the coast of the central Gaza Strip.[6] This aid distribution point will service the US-constructed pier off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations across the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last information cutoff on April 26.[7]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 26.[8]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Houthis launched three ballistic missiles targeting two commercial vessels in the Red Sea on April 26.[9] US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that the Houthis launched three anti-ship ballistic missiles targeting the Barbados-flagged, Liberia-operated Maisha and United Kingdom-owned, Panama-flagged Andromeda Star.[10] CENTCOM and British maritime security firm Ambrey reported minor damage to the Andromeda Star.[11] The Houthi military spokesperson claimed the attack targeted the Andromeda Star, adding that Houthi forces also shot down a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over Saada Governorate, northern Yemen.[12

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it launched one drone targeting an unspecified “vital target” in Haifa on April 26.[13] CTP-ISW cannot verify this claim. Israeli officials and media have not commented on the claimed attack at the time of this writing.

Iran Update, April 26, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps 

Johanna Moore, Peter Mills, Kathryn Tyson, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Christina Harward, Liam Karr, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Public meetings between officials from Russia, Belarus, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Iran, and North Korea have surged in recent days, with at least 10 high-level bilateral meetings between April 22 and 26, underscoring the deepening multilateral partnership these states are constructing to confront the West. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting of defense ministers in Astana, Kazakhstan on April 26.[1] Shoigu met with PRC Minister of National Defense Dong Jun on the sidelines of the meeting and highlighted the “unprecedented” level of Russo-Sino relations.[2] Shoigu also met with Iranian Defense Minister Mohammed Reza Ashtiani and stated that Russia is prepared to expand Russo-Iranian military and military-technical cooperation.[3] Ashtiani is primarily responsible for managing arms procurement and sales and the Iranian defense industrial base, which makes these meetings particularly noteworthy. Dong and Ashtiani held a bilateral meeting and called for increased Sino-Iranian cooperation, including in the defense and military spheres.[4] Belarusian Defense Minister Lieutenant General Viktor Khrenin also met with Dong and Ashtiani at the SCO meeting on April 26.[5] The April 26 SCO meeting marked Iran’s first SCO meeting as a member state since joining the organization in July 2023.[6]

The SCO meetings are only the latest in a series of bilateral meetings between Russia, Belarus, the PRC, Iran, and North Korea. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Representative to the Russian President for Middle East and African Countries Mikhail Bogdanov met with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ali Bagheri Kani in Moscow on April 26.[7] Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev met with PRC Communist Party Politburo member Chen Wenqing on April 23 in St. Petersburg and discussed strengthening cooperation between Russian and PRC intelligence services.[8] Patrushev also met with Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Akbar Ahmadian in St. Petersburg on April 24, and they signed a memorandum of understanding between the two countries’ security councils.[9] A North Korean delegation led by Minister for External Economic Relations Yun Jong Ho traveled to Iran on April 23.[10] Head of the Belarusian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) Department of International Military Cooperation Major General Valery Revenko met with Iranian Deputy Minister of Defense and rector of the Malek Ashtar University of Technology Mehdi Jafari on April 22 in Minsk.[11] Although the details and results of these various bilateral meetings are unclear, the overt increase in their number and frequency is notable and demonstrates the group’s increased eagerness to publicly display its military and political cooperation in its competition and confrontation against the West.

The above text is featured in the Institute for the Study of War’s Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment published on April 26, 2024.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister for Political and Political Affairs and chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bageri Kani met with Russian and Chinese officials in a BRICS meeting in Moscow, Russia on April 25. Bagheri Kani discussed the importance of bilateral ties and regional issues with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister for Middle East and North Africa Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov and PRC Special Envoy for Middle East Affairs Zhai Jun.[12]

Western reporting has exaggerated how much Hamas has moderated its position toward Israel following an interview with a top Hamas official.[13] Western media reported that Khalil al Hayya, the deputy chairman of Hamas' Political Bureau, said during an interview on April 25 that Hamas is prepared to reach a truce of five or more years with Israel and implied that Hamas would turn into a political party and turn its military wing into “the national [Palestinian] army” if Israel recognizes a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.[14] Western reporting framed Hayya‘s statements to mean that Hamas‘ military wing would “dissolve“ if Israel recognized a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.[15] Hayya did not mention abandoning Hamas’ objective of destroying Israel, nor did he say that the new ”sovereign Palestinian state” would recognize Israel.

Hamas sees control over the Gaza Strip and West Bank as an interim step in the destruction of the Israeli state. Hayya’s interview is entirely consistent with this position. Hamas’ military wing’s website says that the group can “accept the interim liberation of parts of Palestine” and an “interim truce” but that these interim steps only “serve as a warrior’s rest stop.”[16] The same page adds that during this interim period, Hamas will not recognize Israel, and Hayya did not indicate that Hamas would do so.[17] A five-year truce would serve Hamas’ purposes by allowing the group to prepare for the next round of fighting. Hamas started the current war by breaking a period of relative calm between itself and Israel on October 6, and there is no reason to believe Hamas will honor a future “truce.”

Iran is attempting to expand Iran’s economic influence in Africa by increasing its economic ties with non-Western partners. Iran likely aims to use these economic ties to circumvent sanctions. Iran held its second annual Iran-Africa Trade Summit in Tehran, Iran, on April 26. Iran’s Ministry of Industry, Mine, and Trade organized the event.[18] Iranian media reported that officials from over 30 African Union member states attended the summit.[19] It is unclear how many African Union member state officials attended the inaugural event in 2023. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gave a speech at the summit stressing the need to strengthen trade between Iran and African nations.[20]

The Raisi administration has long sought to expand Iran’s economic influence in Africa as part of its “neighborhood policy.”[21] Raisi focused his July 2023 trips to Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe—then marking the first Iranian presidential visit to Africa in 11 years—on improving economic ties with these countries.[22] Increased Iranian economic cooperation with African states will not enable the regime to fix the structural flaws in its economy, however. Greater bilateral trade with foreign countries would enable Iran to increase its capital inflows but will not solve the problems that cause Iran’s economic instability. Fundamental economic reforms—such as reducing the dominance of parastatal organizations in Iran’s economy and combatting corruption and nepotism—would be necessary to meaningfully improve Iran’s economy.[23]

Raisi held separate and private meetings about improving economic ties with Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and Burkinabe Prime Minister Apollinaire J. Kyélem de Tambèla on the sidelines of the trade summit.[24] The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and regime-affiliated outlets have previously encouraged increased economic engagement with Africa to obtain gold payments that Iran can use to evade sanctions.[25] Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe are among the top ten gold producers on the continent, making Raisi’s meetings with officials from these countries particularly noteworthy.[26] Israeli media reported that Zimbabwe signed a uranium deal with Iran in 2013, which Zimbabwe has since denied.[27]

Iran may seek to export arms to some African Union member states like Burkina Faso as part of its effort to improve ties with African states. Iranian officials have repeatedly expressed interest in using arms sales to generate revenue for the economy, particularly following Iran’s success in supplying Russia drones to use in Ukraine.[28] The Burkinabe, Malian, and Nigerien juntas could be amenable to such sales to combat the growing Salafi-jihadi threat in their countries. Weapons sales from Tehran could address their needs while aligning with their anti-Western and aggressively militarized counterinsurgency outlooks.[29] Iran has sent Ababil-3 multi-role and Mohajer-6 multi-role drones to Ethiopia, Sudan, and Western Sahara since 2021, setting a potential precedent for future shipments to the Sahel.[30] Turkey currently supplies drones to Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. However, Burkina Faso has purchased Turkish drones as recently as April 8.[31]

Iran is facing an increasing threat from Salafi-jihadi groups in southeastern Iran. Iranian security forces conducted a drone strike targeting a vehicle carrying “anti-Iran militants” roughly 60 kilometers southeast of Zahedan in Sistan and Baluchistan Province on April 25. IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported that the strike killed two “terrorists” but provided no further details on the identity of the targeted individuals.[32] Iran’s use of drones to target these “terrorists” is exceptional, and the choice to use drones in this capacity suggests that Iran is facing an increasingly tenuous security environment in southeastern Iran. The strike follows the Balochi Salafi-jihadi group Jaish al Adl’s unprecedented attacks in Sistan and Baluchistan Province on April 14. CTP previously noted that the April 14 attacks highlighted the uptick in anti-regime militancy and the increasingly precarious state of the Iranian internal security environment.

The US Department of Defense reported on April 26 that the United States began construction on a floating pier off the coast of the central Gaza Strip.[33] This US-constructed pier will serve as an additional route for humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. The US Defense Department told the Wall Street Journal that the World Health Organization (WHO) will inspect the aid in Cyprus and commercial vessels will transfer the aid to the US-constructed floating pier.[34] US Army vessels will transport the aid from the floating pier to a temporary pier connected to the Gaza Strip by a causeway. Trucks from a “third country” will transport the aid from the temporary pier to distribution centers run by the United Nations and ”others.”[35] The BBC cited unspecified US officials who said that the US-constructed floating pier will be operational in early May.[36]

US Department of Defense Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder clarified that unidentified Palestinian fighters mortared the marshaling yard where humanitarian aid will be distributed.[37] CTP-ISW reported on April 25 that unspecified Palestinian fighters mortared construction facilities for the US-built pier in the central Gaza Strip. Israeli media reported that the mortars struck engineering equipment close to the pier.[38]

Egypt’s General Intelligence chief Abbas Kamel met with Israeli negotiators in Israel on April 26 to revive ceasefire negotiations. Israeli and Western media reported that Egyptian officials were pessimistic that an agreement could be reached. Israeli officials told the Egyptian delegation that Israel would agree to a hostage exchange that releases 33 hostages instead of the proposed 40 hostages under the US-backed ceasefire proposal.[39] Israel would agree to a ceasefire less than six weeks long in exchange. Israel believes that there are 33 civilian women, children, elderly, and wounded hostages being held in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has refused any hostage exchange agreement that does not include a permanent ceasefire, a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, and the unimpeded return of displaced people to the northern Gaza Strip.[40] Hamas’ negotiating stance has not changed since December 2023.[41] The Wall Street Journal reported that the Egyptian delegation is hoping to use these ceasefire talks to “buy time” for the United States and regional states to pressure Israel to pause preparations for an operation into Rafah citing Egyptian officials “familiar with negotiations.”[42]

Key Takeaways:

  • China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia: Public meetings between officials from Russia, Belarus, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Iran, and North Korea have surged in recent days, with at least 10 high-level bilateral meetings between April 22 and 26, underscoring the deepening multilateral partnership these states are constructing to confront the West.
  • Russian Defense Minister Shoigu also met with Iranian Defense Minister Mohammed Reza Ashtiani and stated that Russia is prepared to expand Russo-Iranian military and military-technical cooperation.[43] Ashtiani is primarily responsible for managing arms procurement and sales as well as the Iranian defense industrial base as defense minister, which makes these meetings particularly noteworthy.
  • Hamas: Western reporting has exaggerated how much Hamas has moderated its position toward Israel following an interview with a top Hamas official in which the Hamas official said Hamas would adhere to a five-year truce if Israel recognized a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Hamas sees control over the Gaza Strip and West Bank as an interim step in the destruction of the Israeli state and it views any truce with Israel as temporary.
  • Iran in Africa: Iran is attempting to expand Iran’s economic influence in Africa by increasing its economic ties with non-Western partners. Iran likely aims to use these economic ties to circumvent sanctions. The IRGC has previously advocated obtaining access to gold in Africa to circumvent sanctions.
  • Southeastern Iran: Iran is facing an increasing threat from Salafi-jihadi groups in southeastern Iran. Iran used a drone to strike “terrorists” in southeastern Iran. Iran’s use of drones to target these “terrorists” is exceptional, and the choice to use drones in this capacity suggests that Iran is facing an increasingly tenuous security environment in southeastern Iran.
  • Humanitarian Aid in the Gaza Strip: US Department of Defense Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder clarified that unidentified Palestinian fighters mortared the marshaling yard where humanitarian aid will be distributed.
  • Negotiations in the Gaza Strip: Israeli and Western media Egyptian officials are pessimistic that an agreement could be reached between Israel and Hamas to reach a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has not meaningfully changed its negotiating position since December 2023 and refuses to free the hostages it holds without a full Israeli withdrawal from the Strip and a permanent ceasefire.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades—the self-proclaimed militant wing of Fatah—and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) conducted separate mortar attacks targeting Israeli forces operating in the Netzarim corridor.[44] The Netzarim corridor is where Israeli forces have established forward operating bases and outposts to facilitate future raids into the northern Gaza Strip.

The US State Department paused its earlier decision to restrict military aid to the Netzah Yehuda Battalion under the Leahy Law.[45] The Netzah Yehuda Battalion is an ultra-orthodox IDF unit that operates mostly in the West Bank. CBS News reported on April 26 that the State Department is reviewing ”additional information regarding the status of the [Netzah Yehuda Battalion]” from Israel and that there was no official determination on the possible Leahy Law violations.[46] Three US sources with knowledge of the issue told Axios on April 20 that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was planning to announce that the United States will ban US military assistance and training provided to the Netzah Yehuda Battalion under the 1997 Leahy Law. The Leahy Law makes it illegal for the US government to fund assistance for foreign security forces in which there is credible information that implicates a unit in the gross violation of human rights. Blinken reported that Israel did not effectively investigate the Netzah Yehuda Battalion for the accused violations.[47]

The Palestinian Mujahideen Movement conducted one rocket attack from the Gaza Strip targeting Sderot on April 26.[48] This is the third consecutive day the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement has conducted rocket attacks into southern Israel.[49]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel 

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations across the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last information cutoff on April 25.[50] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fired small arms and detonated IEDs targeting Israeli forces during Israeli operations in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus.[51]

The IDF detained five individuals across the West Bank on April 26.[52] The IDF also separately detained two individuals suspected of planning an attack on a farm in the central West Bank.[53] The IDF confiscated an axe and knives from the suspects.[54]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least three attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 25.[55]

Hezbollah said that it fired anti-tank guided missiles, rockets, and mortars targeting Israeli vehicles in Ruwaisat al Alam in Shebaa Farms on April 25.[56] The IDF reported that the attack killed an Israeli civilian.[57] This attack is one of the three attacks noted above.

The IDF conducted an airstrike on April 26 targeting a senior Jamaa al Islamiya member in the Western Bekaa district, roughly nine miles north of Shebaa farms.[58] The IDF airstrike occurred 19 hours after the Hezbollah attack targeting Shebaa Farms on April 25. The IDF said that the Jamaa al Islamiya commander was responsible for several attacks targeting Shebaa Farms and that he “cooperated” with Hamas in Lebanon.[59] Jamaa al Islamiya was founded in 1964 as the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.[60]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Unspecified actors launched a one-way attack drone that killed four Yemeni nationals at the UAE-operated Khor Mor Gas field in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, Iraq, on April 26.[61] The Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani condemned the attack and stated that the drone “came from a nearby region within Iraq.”[62] Barzani is probably referring to federal Iraq, which describes the areas outside the Kurdistan Region. Unspecified actors conducted drone and rocket attacks that briefly suspended gas production at Khor Mor in January 2024.[63]

The Houthis claimed that they attacked a Liberian-flagged merchant vessel MSC Darwin in the Gulf of Aden and separately launched ballistic missiles and drones targeting unspecified targets in Eilat, Israel, on April 25.[64] US CENTCOM reported that the Houthis launched one anti-ship ballistic missile into the Gulf of Aden but added that it did not damage any ships or cause any injuries.[65] CENTCOM forces destroyed one Houthi unmanned surface vessel and one Houthi unmanned aerial vehicle in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on April 25.[66] CTP-ISW did not observe any media reporting that corroborated the Houthi’s claimed ballistic missile and drone attacks targeting Eilat.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) reported an unspecified explosion and added that two missiles damaged a commercial vessel 14 nautical miles from al Mokha, Yemen, on April 26.[67] A Yemeni journalist reported that the Houthis launched a ballistic missile from near Taiz around the same time as the UKMTO report.[68]

 

Iran Update, April 25, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Johanna Moore, Peter Mills, Amin Soltani, Alexandra Braverman, Kelly Campa, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Hamas and Palestinian factions are targeting and threatening to target the humanitarian pier in the central Gaza Strip that is meant to distribute aid to the northern Strip. Israeli media report that unspecified Palestinian fighters mortared construction facilities for the US-built pier in the central Gaza Strip on April 25.[1] The mortars struck engineering equipment close to the pier. The World Health Organization (WHO) director general said on April 22 that WHO aid missions to hospitals in northern Gaza have been only “partly successful” due to delays at checkpoints and ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip.[2] Hamas Political Bureau Deputy Chairman Khalil al Hayya separately implied that Hamas would attack any non-Palestinian presence in the Gaza Strip “at sea or on land.”[3] The US-built pier will be off the coast of the Gaza Strip.[4] The decision by Hamas and other Palestinian militia factions to target the pier will further constrict international aid organizations’ ability to distribute aid in the Gaza Strip.[5]

Iraqi National Security Adviser Qasim al Araji met with two senior Russian officials in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 24 and 25 after meeting with Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rear Adm. Ali Akbar Ahmadian on April 23. Araji discussed intelligence cooperation and “the situation in the Middle East” during two separate meetings with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Russian Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Sergei Vershinin on April 24 and 25 respectively.[6] The Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rear Adm. Ali Akbar Ahmadian met with Patrushev on April 24, one day after Ahmadian met with Araji.[7] Araji and Ahmadian discussed expelling US and international coalition forces from Iraq.[8] The Russian ambassador to Iraq has repeatedly met with senior Iraqi military and political figures, including Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani, in 2024 to discuss expanding security cooperation and Russian investment into Iraq.[9] CTP-ISW assessed on February 20 that Russia may be setting conditions to supplant the United States as a security partner in Iraq in anticipation of the United States possibly reducing its military presence there.[10] Araji is a member of the Iranian-backed Badr Organization.[11]

The IDF conducted a relief-in-place/transfer of authority in the Netzarim corridor on April 25. The Nahal Brigade transferred responsibility for its area of operations to the IDF 2nd Reservist Infantry Brigade and 679th Reservist Armored Brigade on April 25.[12] An Israeli Army Radio journalist reported on April 15 that the IDF 2nd Carmeli Brigade and 679th Armored Brigade will secure the Netzarim corridor and the temporary US-built pier in the central Gaza Strip.[13] The Nahal Brigade will rest to prepare for Israeli operations in Rafah.[14]

Key Takeaways: 

  • Humanitarian Aid in the Gaza Strip: Unspecified fighters targeted the humanitarian pier in the central Gaza Strip that is meant to distribute aid to the northern Strip. Unspecified Palestinian fighters mortared construction facilities for the US-built pier in the central Gaza Strip on April 25.
  • Hamas Political Bureau Deputy Chairman Khalil al Hayya separately implied that Hamas would attack any non-Palestinian presence in the Gaza Strip “at sea or on land.” The US-built pier will be off the coast of the Gaza Strip.
  • Iraq in Russia: The Iranian-linked Iraqi National Security Adviser discussed intelligence cooperation and “the situation in the Middle East” during two separate meetings with senior Russian officials in St. Petersburg. Russia may be setting conditions to supplant the United States as a security partner in Iraq in anticipation of the United States possibly reducing its military presence there.
  • Rafah: The IDF Nahal Brigade transferred responsibility for its area of operations in the Netzarim corridor to the IDF 2nd Reservist Infantry Brigade and 679th Reservist Armored Brigade on April 25. The Nahal Brigade will leave the Gaza Strip and rest to prepare for Israeli operations in Rafah.
  • Iran: The Iranian judiciary confirmed the death sentence of 33-year-old dissident Iranian rapper Tomaj Salehi on April 25.

Iran Update, April 24, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Iranian-backed Iraqi militias appear divided on whether to resume attacks targeting US forces. Emirati state media reported that Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah (KH) is advocating for the resumption of attacks but that some militia leaders disagree with KH, citing unidentified Iraqi political and security sources.[1] Emirati state media furthermore reported that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which is a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, did not approve the recent attacks on US forces on April 21 and 22, citing unidentified sources “close to Baghdad and [the Iranian-backed Iraqi] armed factions.”[2] These reported fissures are consistent with other recent reports that KH announced the resumption of attacks on US forces on April 22 and then later rescinded the announcement.[3] KH pushing to restart attacks on American forces is unsurprising, moreover, since the group previously disputed orders from the IRGC Quds Force to halt attacks on US targets in February 2024.[4] Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq (True Promise Corps) separately criticized unspecified Shia leaders on April 18 for abandoning their efforts to expel US forces, possibly suggesting that the group similarly wants to resume attacks.[5]

KH and other militias supporting the resumption of attacks are responding at least partly to the recent visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani to Washington, DC. Sudani discussed bilateral security cooperation with US officials during his visit, and his administration signaled that it had arrived at a timeline for the end of the US-led international coalition mission in Iraq.[6] KH’s push to resume attacks suggests that it is dissatisfied with Sudani following the visit. Sudani does not seek the removal of US forces, as CTP-ISW previously reported, placing him at odds with some of the Iranian-backed Iraqi factions, including KH. These fissures highlight the risk that KH and other militias could resume regular attacks on US positions independently.

Iran is continuing to collaborate with other revisionist countries, such as Russia and North Korea, to advance their mutual agendas and undermine the West. Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rear Adm. Ali Akbar Ahmadian met with Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, on April 24 while attending the 12th Russian International Security Summit in St. Petersburg.[7] Ahmadian and Patrushev signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to deepen bilateral security cooperation during their meeting.[8] Iran separately hosted a state delegation from North Korea on April 23, marking the first to visit Tehran since 2019.[9] North Korean External Economic Relations Minister Yun Jong Ho led the delegation, which is particularly noteworthy given his prominent involvement in North Korean cooperation with Russia.[10] Yun Jong Ho met with a Russian delegation in Pyongyang in December 2023 and later traveled to Moscow in March 2024.[11] This flurry of meetings highlights the extent to which Iran, Russia, and North Korea are cooperating on several fronts in pursuit of their revisionist ambitions.

Iranian officials could discuss military and nuclear cooperation, among other things, with the North Korean delegation in Tehran. Iran and North Korea have a long history of such cooperation that began in the 1990s with the Iranian purchase of North Korean missile technologies.[12] Some Western analysts have hypothesized that Iran could provide drones and/or energy products to North Korea in exchange for help with the Iranian missile and nuclear programs.[13] Pyongyang could furthermore seek to learn from the recent Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel and the performance of Iranian systems against US and partner air defenses.

Iran and North Korea are separately aligned in their military support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Iran has provided drones and other forms of support to Russia, as CTP-ISW has reported extensively.[14] North Korea has similarly given ballistic missiles to Russian forces to use against Ukrainian targets. Russia had fired around 50 North Korean-sourced missiles as of March 2024, according to Ukrainian officials.[15]

Key Takeaways: 

  • Iraq: Iranian-backed Iraqi militias appear divided on whether to resume attacks targeting US forces.
  • Iran: Iran is continuing to collaborate with other revisionist countries, such as Russia and North Korea, to advance their mutual agendas and undermine the West.
  • Gaza Strip: Several Israeli defense and security officials told international media outlets that the IDF is fully prepared for a clearing operation into Rafah.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least five locations across the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: The IDF Air Force conducted a “broad attack” on approximately 40 Lebanese Hezbollah targets around Aita al Shaab, near the Israel-Lebanon border.

Iran Update, April 23, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Andie Parry, Johanna Moore, Peter Mills, Annika Ganzeveld, Alexandra Braverman, Ashka Jhaveri, Karolina Hird, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Hamas military spokesperson Abu Obeida called on April 23 for the anti-Israel protest movement in Jordan to escalate.[1] Abu Obeida called on the “Jordanian masses” to escalate their actions and “raise their voice” against Israel.[2] Jordanian demonstrators in Amman chanted references to Abu Obeida shortly after Hamas released his speech.[3] Pro-Palestinian protests in Jordan and around the Middle East have frequently celebrated Obeida and have sometimes responded to his calls for demonstrations. Some demonstrators have ascribed special significance to his words, especially in the first months of the Israel-Hamas war.[4] Jordanian protests had decreased in frequency, size, and scope in recent daysuntil Obeida’s speechdue to arrests and protester fatigue.[5] Abu Obeida‘s praise for the Jordanian protest movement as “the most important“ masses against Israel mirrors the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) military spokesperson’s statement of support for the Jordan protest movement on April 4.[6]

Abu Obeida’s call for Jordanians to take a more active role against Israel is consistent with the Iranian desire to expand its militia networks into Jordan. A prominent Iranian-backed Iraqi militia threatened to create and arm a new 12,000-man Iranian proxy in Jordan on April 1, which CTP-ISW assessed may reflect a greater, more confrontational, shift in the Iranian strategy vis-a-vis Jordan.[7] Such a militia is likely aspirational and not currently a feasible undertaking, but Abu Obeida’s speech could be meant to spur participation and organization along these lines. Tehran and its regional allies seek to expand their position in Jordan because Jordanian territory could grant them land routes through which to transfer materiel into the West Bank as well as a possible opportunity to disrupt Israeli overland trade through the kingdom. An active and well-armed Iranian-backed militia based out of Jordan would also significantly advance Iran’s military encirclement of Israel.

Abu Obeida’s praise of Jordan notably focused on the “Jordanian masses” not the Jordanian state, which is consistent with Iran and its Axis of Resistance increasingly criticizing and threatening Jordanian political leadership for its Israel policy in recent months. Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah specifically criticized Jordanian leaders on April 15 for supporting the US and Israeli interception of the recent Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel.[8] IRGC-affiliated media separately warned Jordan that it would be Iran’s “next target” if it supported an Israeli strike into Iran.[9] Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have also called for the dismantlement of Israel’s “land bridge” through Jordan, on which Israel has increasingly relied to compensate for reduced trade activity at the Port of Eilat due to the Houthis’ anti-shipping campaign in the Red Sea.[10]

Key Takeaways: 

  • Jordan: Hamas military spokesperson Abu Obeida called for the anti-Israel protest movement in Jordan to escalate.
  • Gaza Strip: An unspecified Israeli security official reiterated to the Wall Street Journal the Israeli intent to conduct a clearing operation in Rafah.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in three locations across the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least six attacks into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller confirmed that an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia recently attacked US forces in Syria.
  • Iran: Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Akbar Ahmadian traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to attend the 12th Russian International Security Summit.

Iran Update, April 22, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Kathryn Tyson, Annika Ganzeveld, Ashka Jhaveri, Alexandra Braverman, Andie Parry, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Iranian-backed Iraqi militias may have resumed their attack campaign targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria. Unspecified Iranian-backed Iraqi militia fighters launched at least five rockets from Zummar, Ninewa Province, Iraq, targeting US forces at the Rumaylan Landing Zone in Hasakah Province, Syria, on April 21.[1] The Iraqi government confirmed that unspecified fighters fired rockets at an international coalition base in Syria.[2] The Iraqi government reported that Iraqi security forces burned a vehicle in western Ninewa Province that the fighters had used to launch rockets toward Syria.[3] An unspecified US official separately told Reuters on April 22 that unspecified Iranian-backed Iraqi militants launched at least two drones targeting US forces at Ain al Asad airbase in Anbar Province, Iraq, which is south of the Euphrates River.[4] Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah typically conducts attacks targeting US forces south of the Euphrates River, such as at Ain al Asad airbase in western Iraq and al Tanf Garrison in southeastern Syria.[5] Other militias, including Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba and Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada, typically conduct attacks targeting US forces north of the Euphrates River.[6] Syrian media reported that the US-led international coalition separately conducted an airstrike targeting a missile launch site in Zummar.[7]

Kataib Hezbollah-affiliated social media channels reportedly announced on April 21 that Kataib Hezbollah had resumed attacks targeting US forces in the region.[8] These channels said that Kataib Hezbollah chose to resume attacks due to Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani’s lack of progress in negotiations to remove US forces from Iraq during Sudani’s recent visit to the United States. Kataib Hezbollah denied on April 21 that it had released such an announcement. The two attacks in Syria and Iraq notably came one day after Sudani returned to Iraq from his visit to the United States.[9]

Kataib Hezbollah previously suspended its attacks targeting US forces in January 2024 following a one-way drone attack that killed three US personnel in northeastern Jordan.[10] US media reported in February 2024 that Kataib Hezbollah “fiercely resisted” IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani’s orders to suspend its attacks.[11] CTP-ISW previously assessed on April 10 that some Iranian-backed Iraqi militias could decide to resume attacks targeting US forces if Sudani’s visit to the United States failed to result in tangible steps toward removing US forces from Iraq.[12]

Asaib Ahl al Haq Secretary General Qais Khazali warned on April 10, for example, that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias would use force to expel US forces from Iraq “if diplomatic efforts fail.”[13] Asaib Ahl al Haq has been less responsive to Iranian direction relative to other Iranian backed militias during this war.[14] Some Western analysts have assessed that Asaib Ahl al Haq attack cells operate both north and south of Euphrates River.[15]

Unspecified fighters also launched at least one drone targeting US forces at the al Tanf Garrison on April 1.[16] Iranian-backed Iraqi militias did not continue attacks between April 1 and April 21. CTP-ISW has not observed Iranian-backed Iraqi militias acknowledge the April 21 attacks, nor have these militias announced that they have resumed their campaign against US forces.

Hardline Iranian parliamentarian and member of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Javad Karimi Ghodousi tweeted on April 22 implying that if granted permission, Iran could test its first nuclear weapon within one week.[17] Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Deputy Chairman Shahriar Heydari stated on April 22 in response to Karimi Ghodousi’s tweet that Iran has no ”intention” to build or use nuclear weapons.[18] Heydari cited Khamenei’s 2003 fatwa as the reason Iran is not seeking to acquire or use nuclear weapons. Heydari stated that Karimi Ghodousi's tweet may have been taken out of context.

Some Iranian regime hardliners have similarly begun openly discussing Iran’s ability to procure a nuclear weapon. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Nuclear Security and Protection Corps Commander Brigadier General Ahmad Haghtalab announced on April 18 that Iran will change its “nuclear doctrine and policies” if an Israeli strike targeted Iran’s nuclear facilities.[19] Haghtalab made these comments prior to the Israeli strike on April 19 that targeted a TOMB STONE radar at an Artesh base in Esfahan, 112 km south of Natanz Nuclear Complex. A former head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, implied during a televised interview in February 2024 that Iran could develop a nuclear bomb.[20] Unspecified officials and experts told the Washington Post on April 10 that Iran is closer to nuclear weapons capability now than at any prior time in Iranian history.[21] CTP-ISW noted in December 2023 that Iran’s decision to increase its enrichment rate of 60 percent purity uranium was consistent with the long-standing CTP-ISW assessment that Iran has developed a nuclear program that it intends to use to produce a nuclear arsenal.[22]

The Iranian hardliners' statements contradict Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s 2003 fatwa against the acquisition, development, and use of nuclear weapons.[23]

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei praised senior military commanders for their role in the April 13 drone and missile strike against Israel on April 21.[24] Khamenei made this statement during a meeting with senior commanders from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Artesh, Armed Forces General Staff, and Law Enforcement Command (LEC). Khamenei stated that “the willpower of the Iranian nation and armed forces” matters more than how many munitions Iran launched or how many munitions hit their target. Khamenei’s statement suggests that the Iranian attack sought to inflict damage on the state of Israel, given that Khamenei is implying the number of munitions that did hit their target was lower than expected. CTP-ISW previously assessed that the Iranian April 13 missile-drone attack on Israel very likely intended to cause significant damage in Israel.[25]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iraq and Syria: Iranian-backed Iraqi militias may have resumed their attack campaign targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria.
  • Iran: Hardline Iranian parliamentarian and member of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Javad Karimi Ghodousi implied that if granted the permission, Iran could test its first nuclear weapon within one week.
  • Nothern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias conducted several attacks targeting the IDF in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in six locations across the West Bank. 
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian militias conducted several attacks targeting the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on April 22. Hamas fighters fired sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars targeting Israeli forces near Beit Hanoun.[26] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the current war, mortared Israeli forces east of Beit Hanoun.[27] The IDF has conducted multiple raids targeting Palestinian militias in Beit Hanoun in recent weeks.[28] These attacks and the IDF’s raids indicate that Palestinian militia cells remain in Beit Hanoun, as CTP-ISW has previously assessed.

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on April 22. The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) directed an airstrike targeting Palestinian fighters in an unspecified area of the central Gaza Strip.[29] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades mortared Israeli forces east of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on April 22.[30]

Unspecified Arab officials told the Wall Street Journal on April 20 that Hamas is considering removing its political leadership from Qatar.[31] Hamas denied reports on April 20 that it was moving its leadership out of Qatar.[32] Hamas leaders have lived in Doha, the capital of Qatar, since 2012.[33] Qatar has served as a mediator for ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas during the current war. Unspecified Arab officials told the Wall Street Journal that Hamas has recently contacted at least two countries in the region, including Oman, to ask about the possibility of Hamas political leaders relocating to the two countries.[34]

The Israeli War Cabinet met on April 21 to discuss Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip and ceasefire negotiations.[35] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that members of the negotiating team were conducting “false briefings” to the media and ”seeding desperation among” hostage families, adding that these briefings harm the effort to return Israeli hostages.[36] Netanyahu also alleged during a recent security cabinet meeting that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was leaking information from sensitive meetings.[37]

A flotilla of ships is preparing to sail from Turkey to the Gaza Strip in an attempt to breach Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, according to Freedom Flotilla Coalition organizers.[38] An organizer said that the flotilla would include a cargo ship carrying food, water, ambulances and medical supplies. The same organizer said that Turkish port authorities are still discussing the ships’ point of departure. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition has participated in similar missions for the Gaza Strip. Israeli naval forces raided a Turkish-dispatched coalition flotilla in 2010 in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea.[39] Israeli forces killed at least nine, mostly Turkish, pro-Palestinian activists during the raid and suffered seven Israeli soldiers wounded[40] Turkey responded to the incident by recalling its ambassador and cancelling military exercises with Israel.[41]

The World Health Organization (WHO) director general said on April 22 that WHO aid missions to hospitals in northern Gaza have been only “partly successful” due to delays at checkpoints and ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip.[42] The director general said that humanitarian aid missions need “safe and sustained passage” into the Gaza Strip to deliver aid to people in critical condition. Palestinian militias have continued to mortar Israeli forces in the central Gaza Strip’s Netzarim Corridor. Netzarim Corridor is where Israeli forces have established forward operating bases and outposts to facilitate future raids into the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF also has checkpoints in the corridor to control the flow of aid to the north.[43]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in six locations across the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last information cutoff on April 21.[44] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fired small arms and detonated improvised explosive devices (IED) targeting Israeli forces in the Balata refugee camp and Silat al Dhahr refugee camp in the northern West Bank.[45] Unspecified Palestinian fighters clashed with Israeli forces during a raid near Tubas, Hebron, and Jerusalem.[46] Palestinian media reported that unspecified Palestinian fighters detonated an IED near an Israeli settlement east of Qalqilya.[47]

Israeli media reported that violence broke out between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in Burka, east of Ramallah on April 21. Israeli media said that Palestinian and Israeli civilians threw rocks at each other and set a car and building on fire.[48] Palestinian Authority-affiliated media cited local officials who said that Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian village of Burka from the north and the west, setting fire to a sheep barn and attempting to ignite a house.[49] Israeli media reported that that there were six casualties and that Israeli forces arrived on the scene.[50]

Two Palestinians rammed Israeli civilians with a car in Jerusalem. The suspects attempted to fire a rudimentary submachine gun at the civilians before fleeing the scene.[51] The Israeli police detained the two Palestinians, who the Israeli Police said were originally from Hebron.[52] Israeli media reported that the two have familial relations with known members of Hamas’ military wing in the West Bank.[53] Palestinian Authority-affiliated media reported that the IDF closed checkpoints northeast of Jerusalem following the attack.[54]

Israeli officials criticized US plans to block military aid to an IDF unit due to alleged human rights abuses in the West Bank. Three US sources with knowledge of the issue told Axios that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to announce that the United States will ban US military assistance or training providing for the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, which is an ultra-orthodox IDF unit that operate mostly in the West Bank.[55] Blinken is ordering an end to these provisions under the 1997 Leahy Law, which makes it illegal for the US government to fund assistance for units of foreign security forces in which there is credible information implicating a unit in the gross human rights violation.[56] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision targeting an IDF unit “the height of absurdity and a moral low” and said that he will act against the US plans.[57] Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call that the decision would be a “mistake” and “harm Israel’s international legitimacy.”[58]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 21.[59] Hezbollah fired a salvo of approximately 35 rockets at Ein Zeitim in northern Israel in response to recent Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon.[60] The IDF shot down a ”suspicious aerial vehicle” near Kiryat Shmona.[61]

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant discussed Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah’s attempts to establish a presence in Syria with local IDF commanders during a visit in the Golan Heights on April 21 .[62] Gallant stated that the IDF is “actively preventing” Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militias from establishing positions along the Golan Heights-Syria border.[63] The IDF Air Force and ground forces have repeatedly targeted Iranian-backed militia positions near the Golan Heights-Syria border.[64] The IDF said on April 9 that it will not allow Hezbollah to establish a presence in southern Syria and will hold the Syrian Arab Army responsible for Hezbollah activity in Syria.[65] The IDF said on April 7 that Iranian-backed fighters have fired at least 35 rockets into the Golan Heights from southern Syria since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.[66]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Iranian media claimed on April 21 that the IRGC attacked a “secret American base” in Israel’s Negev Desert during Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack on Israel.[67] IRGC-affiliated media claimed that the US base, named ”Position 512,” maintains radar facilities that monitor missile attacks on Israel.[68]

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi emphasized the importance of friendly relations during his first trip to Pakistan on April 22 since Iran and Pakistan exchanged cross-border strikes against each other in January 2024.[69] Raisi emphasized the strong relations and ”deep religious and historical bonds“ between Iran and Pakistan during separate meetings with the Pakistani Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on April 22.[70] Iran and Pakistan signed eight memoranda of understanding (MOU) aimed at increasing cooperation in areas such as security, free trade, judicial proceedings, and the media.[71] Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian separately called Raisi’s visit a ”turning point” in Iran-Pakistan relations during a phone call with his Pakistani counterpart on April 22.[72]

The Iranian regime emphasized the need to strengthen Iran’s defense capabilities following Israel’s April 18 airstrike that damaged Iranian military infrastructure. The Israeli airstrike damaged an S-300 air defense system’s TOMB STONE radar at the Eighth Shekari Artesh Air Force base northeast of Esfahan City, Esfahan Province.[73] Armed Forces General Staff Chief Major General Mohammad Bagheri chaired a meeting with the Passive Defense Organization on April 20 to discuss “maintaining and improving preparations” to confront unspecified threats.[74] The Passive Defense Organization is an Iranian regime institution responsible for defending Iran's civilian, military, cyber, and nuclear infrastructure from attacks.[75] The Iranian Parliament separately approved parts of a plan to strengthen and develop the Defense Innovation and Research Organization’s “scientific research and defense innovations.”[76] The Defense Innovation and Research Organization operates under the Iranian Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ministry. The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned the Defense Innovation and Research Organization in August 2014 for “for engaging in or attempting to engage in activities that have materially contributed to...the proliferation of WMD."

Iran Update, April 21, 2024

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Andie Parry and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

The IDF concluded a major, multi-day “counterterrorism operation” in the Nour Shams Refugee Camp, Tulkarm, on April 21. Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in Nour Shams, killing 14 Palestinian fighters.[1] The IDF Duvdevan unit arrested 15 wanted persons, destroyed two improvised explosive device manufacturing facilities and dozens of explosives, and seized ammunition during operations in the camp. Palestinian fighters wounded ten Israeli soldiers in the operation.[2] Palestinian journalists reported that the IDF had killed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander in Tulkarm on April 19.[3] The same PIJ commander attended the funeral of other Palestinian fighters killed in fighting in Tulkarm, confirming that the commander survived the Israeli operation.[4]

Several Palestinian militias called for the mobilization of armed Palestinians across the West Bank in response to the IDF’s Nour Shams operation. Hamas, the Lions’ Den, the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement, and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades published statements calling for a mass uprising and armed retaliation against the IDF.[5] Those Palestinian militias and others claimed 15 attacks on Israeli forces, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and Israeli border towns on April 21.[6]  PIJ’s Jenin Battalion conducted nine of the 15 attacks.[7] PIJ said that they were responding to the Israeli raid in Nour Shams.[8] Palestinians also conducted unclaimed attacks targeting Israeli checkpoints near Hebron and in the Jordan Valley.[9] The timing of these unclaimed attacks suggests that they are in response to the calls for mobilization. An unspecified group planted an improvised explosive device near Ramallah on April 21. The fighters had connected the IED‘s detonator to a Palestinian flag so that when an Israeli attempted to remove the flag, the IED detonated.[10]

Palestinians also participated in marches and a general strike on April 21 in response to the IDF’s Nour Shams operation.[11] Hamas called for a general strike on April 21.[12]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: The IDF did not publish information about Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip on April 21. Palestinian militias claimed only one attack targeting Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.
  • West Bank: The IDF concluded a major, multi-day “counterterrorism operation” in the Nour Shams Refugee Camp, Tulkarm, on April 21. Several Palestinian militias called for the mobilization of armed Palestinians across the West Bank in response to the IDF’s Nour Shams operation.
  • Lebanon: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 20.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed one drone attack targeting an unspecified site in the Golan Heights on April 20.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Local Palestinian media reported the Israel Defense Force (IDF) Air Force conducted airstrikes in several areas of the Gaza Strip on April 21. The strikes targeted sites in Gaza City, the central Gaza Strip, and Rafah.[13]

The IDF did not publish information about Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip on April 21.

Palestinian militias claimed only one attack targeting Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip on April 21. The National Resistance Brigades mortared Israeli armor near the Turkish Hospital in Mughraqa, near the Netzarim corridor.[14]

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and IDF Southern Command commander Yaron Finkelman approved plans for future operations in the Gaza Strip on April 21.[15]

Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched rockets targeting an Israeli military site in southern Israel on April 20 after CTP-ISW's data cut-off.[16]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

See topline.

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 20.[17] Hamas fighters in Lebanon targeted an Israeli military base in northern Israel with 20 122mm Grad rockets.[18]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed one drone attack targeting an unspecified site in the Golan Heights on April 20.[19] CTP-ISW cannot verify this attack claim. Israeli officials and media have not commented on the attack at the time of this writing.

Iran Update, April 20, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Johanna Moore, Peter Mills, Amin Soltani, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: The Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued to conduct “targeted raids” along the Netzarim corridor in the central Gaza Strip on April 20.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces conducted operations in the Nour Shams Refugee Camp, Tulkarm for a second day and engaged fighters from several Palestinian militias, including PIJ and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades on April 20.
  • Lebanon: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 19.
  • Iraq: The Iraqi Defense Ministry reported that an explosion occurred at the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Kalsu Headquarters in Babil Province on April 19. No Iraqi government body characterized the explosion as a ”strike.”

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and the public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued to target military infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip on April 20. The 215th Artillery Brigade (162nd Division) and the IDF Air Force struck a rocket launch site in Beit Hanoun after Palestinian fighters launched rockets targeting Sderot on April 20.[1] The IDF Air Force separately targeted Palestinian fighters and infrastructure to support Israeli forces operating in the area.[2]

PIJ and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades have conducted two rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip targeting Sderot and Nir Am in southern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 19.[3]

The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades–the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah–mortared Israeli forces operating southeast of the Zaytoun neighborhood, Gaza City.[4]

The Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued to conduct “targeted raids” along the Netzarim corridor in the central Gaza Strip on April 20.[5] Israeli forces raided Palestinian militia positions and killed fighters operating in the area.[6] Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed separate mortar attacks targeting Israeli forces in unspecified areas of the “Netzarim Axis,” which refers to the Israeli-built highway Route 749. Route 749 bisects the Gaza Strip.[7]

IDF Southern Command commander Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkleman and the 162nd Division commander met to discuss the division’s operations in the Gaza Strip.[8]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces conducted operations in the Nour Shams Refugee Camp, Tulkarm for a second day and engaged fighters from several Palestinian militias, including PIJ and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades on April 20.[9]

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations across the West Bank, including Nour Shams Refugee Camp, since CTP-ISW's data cut off on April 19.[10] Hamas and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades shot at Israeli forces stationed checkpoints in Jenin and Tulkarm.[11]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 19.[12]

Iran and the Axis of Resistance

The Iraqi Defense Ministry reported that an explosion occurred at the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Kalsu Headquarters in Babil Province on April 19.[13] The explosion killed one PMF member and injured eight Iraqi Army soldiers according to the Defense Ministry. Local footage showed secondary explosions at Kalsu Headquarters, which suggests that the explosion occurred at a weapons storage facility.[14] The United States and Israel denied rumors that they had conducted a strike targeting the base.[15] Iraq’s Air Defense Command reported that it did not detect any drones or aircraft in the air at the time of the explosion.[16] Improper weapons storage has previously caused accidental detonations at PMF weapons storage facilities.[17] The Defense Ministry reported that it initiated an official investigation into the cause of the explosion.[18] No Iraqi government body characterized the explosion as a ”strike.”

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed one drone attack targeting Eilat, southern Israel, on April 19.[19] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed that its attack on Eilat was in response to Israel’s “targeting of the Popular Mobilization Forces camps.” 


Iran Update, April 19, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Ashka Jhaveri, Kathryn Tyson, Johanna Moore, Amin Soltani, Annika Ganzeveld, Kelly Campa, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Israel conducted retaliatory airstrikes targeting an Artesh Air Force base in Esfahan City, Esfahan Province, Iran, on April 18 in response to Iran’s April 13 drone and missile attack targeting Israel.[1] Western and Israeli media reported that Israeli aircraft over unspecified airspace outside Iran fired at least three missiles targeting an Artesh airbase in Esfahan. The Artesh is Iran’s conventional armed forces.[2] An analyst with commercial satellite firm Hawkeye360 posted satellite imagery showing an S-300PMU2 surface-to-air missile battery position in Esfahan, adding that the strike may have damaged an S-300PMU2 surface-to-air missile battery’s target engagement radar.[3] Russia provided the S-300 to Iran in 2016.[4] Iranian state media and local Iranian social media users suggested that Israel targeted the Eighth Shekari Artesh Air Force Base.[5] One senior US official told ABC News that Israel targeted an Artesh radar site that is part of the air defense system protecting the Natanz Nuclear Complex, which is Iran’s main uranium enrichment facility approximately 170 kilometers north of Esfahan.[6] The International Atomic Energy Organization, along with Western and Iranian media, reported that Israel did not damage any of Iran’s nuclear facilities.[7]

Iranian state media and local Iranian social media users separately reported air defense activity over Tabriz, East Azerbaijan Province, on April 18.[8] Iranian officials told The New York Times that Israel attempted to conduct a separate attack on unspecified targets in Tabriz.[9] IRGC-affiliated media claimed that Iranian air defense systems intercepted a “suspicious object,” which caused sounds of explosions over Tabriz. The IRGC-affiliated media outlet added that Iranian facilities in Tabriz “have not been exposed to any harm.”[10]

Iranian officials and media downplayed the severity of Israel’s April 18 airstrikes, suggesting that Iran will not respond to the strikes “forcefully” and “painfully.”[11] The regime has claimed it would respond to Israeli retaliation for the Iranian April 13 attack targeting Israel “forcefully” and “painfully” since April 16.[12] Iranian officials and media claimed that Iranian air defense systems shot down small drones over Esfahan, not missiles.[13] Senior Iranian military officials, including Artesh Commander Maj. Gen. Abdol Rahim Mousavi and Artesh Ground Forces Commander Brig. Gen. Kiomars Heydari, claimed that Iranian air defense systems intercepted “suspicious aerial objects,” which caused sounds of explosions over Esfahan.[14] Some Iranian media outlets claimed that Iran’s air defense systems shot down drones, despite Israeli reporting that Israel used long-range missiles to conduct the airstrikes.[15] Israel has previously conducted attacks inside Iran using small explosive-laden drones.[16] IRGC-affiliated media circulated videos highlighting the “secure and peaceful” atmosphere in Esfahan, including near nuclear facilities and the Eighth Shekari Artesh Air Base.[17] IRGC-affiliated media similarly claimed that Tabriz, East Azerbaijan, was “in complete calm” hours after reports of explosions near the city.[18]

The IDF Air Force likely conducted airstrikes targeting Syrian Arab Army (SAA) air defenses and other positions in Daraa Province on April 18. The Syrian Defense Ministry reported that Israel targeted air defense positions and caused “material losses” in southern Syria at 1955 ET on April 18, approximately 90 minutes before confirmation of an Israeli attack on Iran.[19] Local Syrian media reported that Israel targeted an SAA radar battalion near Qarfa, Daraa, and an SAA 112th Brigade position in Izraa City, Daraa.[20] The IDF has previously targeted SAA air defenses and positions in Daraa Province in retaliation for rockets fired into the Golan Heights.[21] Israeli media reported in 2020 that the SAA’s 1st Corps, which is responsible for areas of southern Syria near the Golan Heights, is closely affiliated with Lebanese Hezbollah.[22] The IDF has said that it will not allow Hezbollah to establish a presence in southern Syria and that the IDF will hold the SAA responsible for Hezbollah activity in Syria. [23]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Israel conducted retaliatory airstrikes targeting an Artesh Air Force base in Esfahan City, Esfahan Province, Iran, in response to Iran’s April 13 drone and missile attack targeting Israel.
  • Syria: Israel likely conducted airstrikes targeting Syrian Arab Army (SAA) air defenses and other positions in Daraa Province.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF Air Force struck military infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: US and Israeli officials held a high-level virtual meeting to discuss a possible Israeli military operation in Rafah.
  • Political Negotiations: Unspecified US and Saudi officials told the Wall Street Journal that the United States is attempting to negotiate a deal in which Israel would recognize Palestinian statehood in exchange for diplomatic recognition from Saudi Arabia.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged fighters from several Palestinian militias, including Hamas and PIJ, during an operation in the Nour Shams Refugee Camp, Tulkarm.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq Secretary General Mohammad al Tamimi criticized the Shia Coordination Framework for supporting Iraqi President Mohammed Shia al Sudani’s visit to Washington, DC.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Air Force struck military infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip on April 19. The 215th Artillery Brigade (162nd Division) and IDF Air Force struck rocket launchers and a weapons depot in an area in Beit Lahia from which Palestinian fighters had recently fired rockets at Ashkelon, southern Israel.[24] Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) launched two rocket salvos targeting Ashkelon on April 18.[25]

Palestinian militias conducted several indirect fire attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip on April 19. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the war, mortared Israeli vehicles southeast of the Zaytoun neighborhood in southeastern Gaza City.[26] PIJ fired rockets targeting Israeli forces and Israeli positions east and southeast of Gaza City.[27] Israeli forces are operating in southeastern Gaza City to conduct raids against Palestinian fighters and secure the Netzarim corridor, where Israeli forces have constructed a highway to support military operations in the northern Gaza Strip.[28]

The Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) killed several Palestinian fighters in an unspecified area in the central Gaza Strip on April 19.[29] The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a secular leftist Palestinian group fighting alongside Hamas in the war, fired rockets targeting Israeli forces in the east of the central Gaza Strip on April 18.[30]

The IDF Air Force struck approximately 25 military targets to support IDF ground forces operating in the Gaza Strip on April 19.[31] The targets included military buildings, observation posts, and rocket launchers.

Unspecified US and Saudi officials told the Wall Street Journal on April 18 that the United States is attempting to negotiate a deal in which Israel would recognize Palestinian statehood in exchange for diplomatic recognition of Israel from Saudi Arabia.[32] US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on January 10 that normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel is still possible.[33] Saudi Arabia told the United States in February 2024 that it will not proceed with normalization with Israel “unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized.”[34] The Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi officials have privately suggested that they would normalize ties with Israel if Israel gave verbal assurances that it would engage in talks on Palestinian statehood.

The United States is offering Saudi Arabia a “more formal” defense relationship with the United States, US assistance to help Saudi Arabia acquire civil nuclear power, and Palestinian statehood as part of the deal. Unidentified US officials claimed that this part of the negotiation is in its final stages. US officials argued that Iran’s attack on Israel on April 13 should be evidence to Israel that integration with Saudi Arabia can improve its defense against Iran. The Wall Street Journal noted that the deal may aid Israel in a potential exit strategy from the Gaza Strip. Several Arab countries have said that if Israel publicly makes progress in establishing a Palestinian state, they will participate in a post-war Gaza Strip.

US and Israeli officials held a high-level virtual meeting on April 18 to discuss a possible Israeli military operation in Rafah.[35] This is the second such meeting to discuss Rafah since April 1.[36] US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi. US and Israeli officials agreed on the ”shared objective to see Hamas defeated in Rafah.”[37] US officials expressed concerns over the potential operation in Rafah, and the Israeli officials agreed to take these concerns into account and hold future discussions.[38] Unspecified US officials familiar with a similar meeting on April 1 said that Israel presented a plan to move 1.4 million civilians out of Rafah but that the Israeli plan excluded concepts for access to food, water, and other civil services.[39] US and Israeli officials also discussed Iran’s attack on Israel and new US sanctions targeting Iran during the April 18 meeting.[40]

PIJ launched a second salvo of rockets from the Gaza Strip targeting Ashkelon in southern Israel shortly after the first on April 18.[41] CTP-ISW reported the first salvo targeting Ashkelon in the April 18 update.[42]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces engaged fighters from several Palestinian militias, including Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), during an operation in the Nour Shams Refugee Camp, Tulkarm.[43] Hamas reported that fighters from its battalion in Jenin were involved in clashes in Tulkarm.[44] The IDF reported that three Israeli soldiers sustained injuries during clashes with Palestinian fighters who used small arms and improvised explosive devices (IED).[45] Palestinian sources reported that Israeli forces killed at least five Palestinians, including a senior commander in PIJ’s Tulkarm Battalion.[46]

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 18, including multiple engagements in Nour Shams refugee camp.[47] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fired small arms targeting Israeli forces near an Israeli settlement north of Hebron.[48]

The United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated two entities on April 19 for fundraising on behalf of two violent Israeli extremists in the West Bank. [49]The groups, Mount Hebron Fund and Shlom Asiraich, established crowdfunding campaigns to raise thousands of dollars for two men whom the United States sanctioned in February 2024. The United States sanctioned the two men in February under an executive order that targeted those perpetrating violence in the West Bank.[50] The European Union separately imposed sanctions on four individuals and two entities for their connection to Israeli settler violence.[51]

The IDF responded to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on April 18 about the rise in Israeli settler violence in the West Bank.[52] The IDF told CNN that Israeli soldiers who fail to protect Palestinians from settler violence or take part in such attacks face disciplinary action.[53] The IDF conceded that its forces had witnessed some Israelis attacking Palestinians. HRW reported that the Israeli military has not protected Palestinians from settler violence and on some occasions participated in the attacks.[54]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 18.[55] Hezbollah targeted Israeli surveillance equipment in three attacks using unspecified weapons.

The IDF 869th Combat Intelligence Battalion (91st Division) identified Hezbollah fighters in Aita al Shaab, southern Lebanon, and directed an airstrike targeting them.[56] Hezbollah announced that one of its fighters died but did not provide further details.[57]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq Secretary General Mohammad al Tamimi criticized the Shia Coordination Framework on April 19 for supporting Iraqi President Mohammed Shia al Sudani’s visit to Washington, DC.[58] Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq reportedly has ties to Iranian-backed Iraqi militias Asaib Ahl al Haq and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba.[59] Tamimi previously threatened on March 27 to resume attacks targeting US forces if Sudani did not establish a timeline for US troops to withdraw from Iraq during his visit to Washington, DC.[60] Tamimi accused unspecified leaders of the Shia Coordination Framework of becoming too concerned with politics and abandoning their efforts to remove US forces from Iraq. Tamimi also questioned their dedication to remove US forces from Iraq. Tamimi argued that Iraq cannot have a relationship with the United States while US forces remaining Iraq.[61]

An online shipping tracker confirmed that the IRGC intelligence gathering ship, the Behshad, returned to Bandar Abbas port, Hormozgan province, Iran, on April 18.[62] Bloomberg reported on April 18 that the Behshad left the Red Sea on April 4 to return to Iran.[63] The Behshad provides the Houthi movement with real-time intelligence, enabling them to target ships that have turned off transponders.[64] Western and Israeli media speculated that Israel would target the Behshad in retaliation for Iran’s April 13 drone and missile attack targeting Israel.[65]

 


Iran Update, April 18, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Kathryn Tyson, Amin Soltani, Ashka Jhaveri, Peter Mills, Alexandra Braverman, Kelly Campa, Johanna Moore, Andie Parry, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Iran is likely engaging in a coordinated information effort to deter an Israeli strike targeting its nuclear facilities and reassure its domestic population about Iran’s ability to protect such facilities. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Nuclear Security and Protection Corps Commander Brigadier General Ahmad Haghtalab announced on April 18 that Iran will change its publicly stated “nuclear doctrine and policies” in the event of an Israeli strike targeting its nuclear facilities.[1] Haghtalab also said that the Iranian National Passive Defense Organization—one of the regime bodies responsible for defending its civilian, military, and nuclear infrastructure from attacks—has plans in place to face “any threat from” Israel.[2] The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) evacuated its inspectors from Iranian nuclear facilities on April 16. The IAEA cited concerns that Israel might strike Iranian nuclear facilities in response to Iran’s April 13 drone and missile strikes targeting Israel.[3]

Most of Iran’s official state media apparatus, including media outlets controlled by the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC)—the main regime body overseeing Iranian nuclear policy—highlighted Haghtalab’s announcement.[4] This reporting suggests that officials at the highest levels of the Iranian government endorsed the announcement, including the SNSC and the Office of the Supreme Leader. Western officials and analysts have often expressed concern that a US or Israeli strike targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities would spur Iran to renew its nuclear weapons program.[5] Iran is likely seeking to exploit this long-standing concern to influence Israeli calculations. Iran is also likely seeking to exploit this concern to influence Western governments to place pressure on Israel not to strike Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranian regime has also long touted its nuclear program as a significant national achievement and probably seeks to reassure its population that it will protect its nuclear accomplishments.[6]

Iran’s attempt to deter an Israeli retaliatory strike does not mean that Iran will not pursue nuclear weapons development, however. Iranian officials have long said that Iran will not weaponize its nuclear program, citing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s 2003 fatwa outlawing nuclear weapons.[7] Haghtalab’s announcement contradicts Khamenei’s stated opposition to nuclear weapons development and marks a notable departure from previous regime rhetoric with respect to its nuclear policies. CTP-ISW previously assessed in December 2023 that Iran has pursued a series of nuclear advancements consistent with the desire for a nuclear arsenal.[8] The announcement also coincides with several senior Iranian officials, including IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami, expressing that the recent escalation cycle between Iran and Israel has significantly altered Iran’s external security calculus in an unspecified manner.[9]

Houthi leader Abdulmalik al Houthi claimed on April 18 that the Houthi attacks on commercial shipping have extended “from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.”[10] The Houthis claimed on April 7 that they conducted two attacks targeting two commercial ships in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.[11] CTP-ISW cannot confirm that these attacks occurred and did not observe any reporting that corroborated the Houthi claims. The Houthis have said on multiple occasions that its maritime attack campaign aims to blockade Israel to support the Palestinian people.[12] The Houthis have expressed an aspiration to expand their attacks targeting Israeli shipping in the Indian Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope.[13] The Houthis do not yet have this capability, but such a capability would allow the Houthis to attack alternate shipping routes that bypass the Red Sea. These attacks have forced major shipping companies to avoid the Red Sea and instead go around the Cape of Good Hope, which imposes additional time delays and costs on trade between Europe and Asia.[14] Houthi attacks have had limited success in “blockading” the Israeli port of Eilat on the Red Sea. Eilat’s revenue decreased by 80% between November 2023 and December 2023.[15]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Iran is likely engaging in a coordinated information effort to deter an Israeli strike targeting its nuclear facilities and reassure its domestic population about Iran’s ability to protect such facilities.
  • An unnamed senior US official told ABC News that Israel is unlikely to retaliate against Iran until after the Passover holiday.
  • Yemen: Houthi leader Abdulmalik al Houthi claimed that the Houthi attacks on commercial shipping have extended “from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.”
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF Air Force struck Palestinian fighters and military infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Central Gaza Strip: The IDF concluded a week-long operation targeting Palestinian fighters and military infrastructure near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip.
  • Political Negotiations: Hamas Deputy Political Bureau head Musa Abu Marzouk said that Hamas will not withdraw from ceasefire negotiations or drop its maximalist demands, which include a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Iraqi government and private sector signed 14 memoranda of understanding (MOU), primarily in energy and finance, with US companies.

Iran Update, April 17, 2024

click here to read the full report with maps

Johanna Moore, Andie Parry, Annika Ganzeveld, Peter Mills, Alexandra Braverman, Kelly Campa, Ashka Jhaveri, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF reported that Israeli forces led by the Northern Brigade (Gaza Division) conducted raids targeting Hamas and PIJ sites in Beit Hanoun over the previous week.
  • Central Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations across the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, including a complex drone and anti-tank guided missile attack that injured 18 Israelis, including 14 IDF soldiers.
  • Iran: A small demonstration occurred outside the Jordanian embassy in Tehran, protesting the Jordanian support in intercepting the recent Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel. CTP-ISW has previously assessed that Iran and its Axis of Resistance have adopted a more confrontational strategy vis-a-vis Jordan in recent months.
  • Senior Iranian political and military officials reiterated their threats that Iran would respond “severely” if Israel retaliates for the recent Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel
  • Syria: The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran ordered IRGC personnel to evacuate military sites across Syria in anticipation of possible Israeli strikes.
  • Iraq: An adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, Subhan al Mullah Jiyad, claimed that the US-Iraqi Higher Military Commission has “set a schedule” for the withdrawal of the US-led international coalition from Iraq.
  • Yemen: US CENTOM reported that it destroyed two drones in Houthi-controlled Yemen.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported on April 17 that Israeli forces led by the Northern Brigade (Gaza Division) conducted raids targeting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) sites in Beit Hanoun over the previous week.[1] Israeli forces had collected intelligence on the sites from questioning Palestinian fighters, revealing that Hamas and PIJ used a school building for military activity as well as the civilians inside for cover from Israeli targeting. The IDF said that Israeli forces ordered civilians to vacate the building prior to the raid. The IDF detained and killed an unspecified number of Palestinian fighters in the building.

Palestinian militias conducted several attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip on April 17. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah, claimed that its fighters had conducted 14 mortar and rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attacks in Beit Hanoun over the previous 24 hours targeting Israeli forces in Beit Hanoun.[2] A Hamas fighter separately conducted a sniper attack targeting an Israeli soldier in Beit Hanoun.[3] The National Resistance Brigades lastly mortared Israeli forces in eastern Jabalia.[4]

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on April 17.[5] The 401st and Nahal brigades (162nd Division) are operating near Wadi Gaza to kill Palestinian fighters and destroy military infrastructure. The IDF Air Force struck a Palestinian fighter squad that was using an armed drone in the central Gaza Strip.[6] The 215th Artillery Brigade and IDF Air Force cooperated to destroy several rocket launchers aimed at Israel.[7]

The IDF Air Force struck over 40 targets in the Gaza Strip on April 17, including explosively rigged buildings, observation posts, and underground military infrastructure.[8]

Palestinian sources claimed on April 17 that Israeli forces are operating in eastern Deir al Balah.[9] Hamas and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed separate RPG and anti-tank guided missile attacks targeting Israeli forces in the area.[10]

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)—a department within the Israeli Defense Ministry—said that eight aid trucks entered the Gaza Strip from Ashdod Port in southern Israel on April 17.[11] This instance marks the first time that humanitarian aid has arrived via ship to Israel during the Israel-Hamas war.[12] The Israeli war cabinet approved the opening of the port on April 5.[13] The IDF said that trucks carry aid unloaded from the Ashdod Port into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing[14]

Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh is meeting with senior Turkish officials. Haniyeh met with the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Hakan Fidan in Qatar on April 16.[15] Haniyeh will also meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara in the coming days.[16]

Palestinian fighters fired a single rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel on April 17.[17] The Popular Resistance Committees, which is a Palestinian militia aligned with Hamas in the war, targeted an IDF base in Zikim.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations across the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 16.[18]  Three Palestinian militias—PIJ, the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and Jundullah—claimed separate attacks targeting Israeli forces around Tubas on April 16.[19] PIJ also claimed that it detonated an IED targeting an IDF bulldozer.[20] Jundallah has claimed two previous attacks in Tubas since the Israel-Hamas war began.[21] 

 Israeli forces detained six wanted Palestinians during overnight operations in the West Bank on April 17.[22] Israeli police separately detained a Palestinian man in Jerusalem on suspicion of planning to conduct a stabbing attack.[23]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel on April 17.[24] One of these attacks was a complex drone and anti-tank guided missile attack that injured 18 Israelis, including 14 IDF soldiers, in Arab al Aramsha along the Israel-Lebanon border.[25] The drone that Hezbollah used bears visual similarities to an Iranian-made Adabil-2.[26] Hezbollah claimed that it targeted an IDF reconnaissance company headquarters in Arab al Aramsha.[27] The IDF reported that it conducted airstrikes targeting Hezbollah air defense sites near Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, in retaliation for the Hezbollah drone strike in Arab al Aramsha.[28]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

A small demonstration occurred outside the Jordanian embassy in Tehran on April 16, protesting the Jordanian support in intercepting the recent Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel.[29]  Demonstrators chanted anti-US and anti-Israeli phrases and held posters condemning Jordanian cooperation with the United States and Israel.[30] The Jordanian foreign minister said on April 14 that Jordan intercepted the projectiles because it assessed that the Iranian drones and missiles posed a genuine threat to Jordanian national security.[31] IRGC-affiliated media previously threatened Jordan if it further supported Israel.[32]

CTP-ISW has previously assessed that Iran and its Axis of Resistance have adopted a more confrontational strategy vis-a-vis Jordan in recent months.[33] The Axis of Resistance has indicated its interest in expanding its militia networks into Jordan, which would facilitate the transfer of materiel to the West Bank as well as create possible opportunities to disrupt Israeli overland trade through kingdom.[34] Iranian and Iranian-backed actors have repeatedly signaled their interest in generating these effects in recent weeks.[35] Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah furthermore criticized Jordanian leaders for supporting the US and Israeli interception of the recent Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel.[36]

Senior Iranian political and military officials reiterated on April 17 their threats that Iran would respond “severely” if Israel retaliates for the recent Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel.[37] IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajji Zadeh, who is primarily responsible for Iranian drone and missile operations, told reporters that Iran would strike Israel again if it responds to the April 13 Iranian attack.[38] Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi similarly stated that Iran would confront Israel “fiercely and severely” if Israel conducts even the “smallest attack” on Iranian territory.[39] Artesh Commander Maj. Gen. Abdol Rahim Mousavi lastly emphasized that the Iranian armed forces are in a constant state of readiness.[40]

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on April 17 that Iran ordered IRGC personnel to evacuate military sites across Syria in anticipation of possible Israeli strikes.[41] This report follows several local Syrian reports claiming that IRGC leadership issued evacuation orders to Iranian-backed militias in Deir ez Zor Province.[42] WSJ reported that Iran also advised Lebanese Hezbollah forces in Syria to take ”precautionary measures” ahead of potential Israeli targeting. Unspecified Syrian security officials told WSJ that Hezbollah accordingly reduced its senior officer presence in Syria and transferred personnel away from military sites. The officials also claimed that Hezbollah recently expanded its force presence along the Israel-Syria border to collect intelligence ahead of possible Israeli strikes.

Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah published a statement criticizing Saudi Arabia on April 17 amid rising tensions between the Axis of Resistance and the kingdom.[43] Kataib Hezbollah accused Saudi Arabia of supporting the US agenda in the Middle East. This statement comes as Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have criticized the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for providing Israel land access to the Persian Gulf.[44] It also comes as Saudi Arabia supported the United States and Israel in intercepting the Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel on April 17.[45]

An adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, Subhan al Mullah Jiyad, claimed on April 17 that the US-Iraqi Higher Military Commission has “set a schedule” for the withdrawal of the US-led international coalition from Iraq.[46] Jiyad did not provide details about the timeline for a withdrawal. The Higher Military Commission, which is comprised of US and Iraqi military officials, began talks about the status of the US-led international coalition in Iraq in late January 2024.[47] Iranian-backed Iraqi militia and political figures have repeatedly called on Sudani to set a timeline for removing US and international coalition forces from Iraq.[48] Sudani traveled to Washington, DC, on April 15, in part to discuss with US officials ending the US-led international coalition’s mission in Iraq and transitioning to a “comprehensive” bilateral relationship with the United States.[49]

US CENTOM reported that it destroyed two drones in Houthi-controlled Yemen on April 16.[50] Houthi-controlled media claimed on April 16 that the United States and United Kingdom conducted two airstrikes targeting unspecified sites in Bajil District, Hudaydah Governorate.[51]

 

Iran Update, April 16, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Annika Ganzeveld, Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, Kathryn Tyson, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

The Washington Post reported on April 15 that 17 Iranian officials visited a Russian air defense system factory in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in March 2023.[1] The factory produces S-400 air defense missiles and mobile launchers, among other military equipment.[2] The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned the company that owns the factory — NPP Start — in June 2022 for supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.[3] Unspecified intelligence officials told the Washington Post that Russia is “advancing” an agreement with Iran to supply Iran with Su-35 fighter jets.[4] Iran has long sought, but not yet received, Su-35s in return for supplying Russia with drones. US and Middle Eastern intelligence officials assessed that delayed Iranian payments to Russia may be hindering Iran’s acquisition of the fighter jets.[5] Russia previously provided Iran with at least two Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft in September 2023, which Iranian media framed as a “necessary prelude” for the acquisition of Su-35s.[6]

Senior Iranian officials emphasized that Iran would strike Israel again “faster and stronger” if Israel retaliated to Iran's April 13 missile and drone attack. Iranian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Bagheri Kani stated that Iran would respond against Israel within a “few seconds” of an Israeli attack.[7] Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi emphasized in separate phone calls to several foreign leaders, including his Qatari and Russian counterparts, that Iran would respond “more fiercely, widely and painfully” if Israel retaliates against Iran.[8] The spokesperson of Iran’s Parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee claimed that Iran is “ready to use weapons that [it] has not used before” during an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-controlled media on April 16.[9]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: The Washington Post reported that 17 Iranian officials visited a Russian air defense system factory in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in March 2023.
  • Senior Iranian officials emphasized that Iran would strike Israel again "faster and stronger" if Israel retaliates to Iran's April 13 missile and drone attack.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Palestinian sources reported that Israeli forces are operating around Beit Hanoun.
  • Political Negotiations: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Hamas rejected the most recent ceasefire agreement because it thought the April 13 Iranian attack on Israel would lead to a regional conflict.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters in at least three locations across the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, including a one-way drone attack targeting an Iron Dome battery.
  • Iraq: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani continued his official visit to Washington, DC.
  • Yemen: Houthi President Mahdi al Mashaat congratulated Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for the April 13 Iranian attack targeting Israel during a phone call.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian sources reported on April 16 that Israeli forces are operating around Beit Hanoun. Several local Palestinian sources reported that Israeli armored vehicles entered Beit Hanoun and areas east of Jabalia. The sources reported that Israeli forces ordered civilians in Beit Hanoun and areas east of Jabalia to leave.[10] One report noted that Israeli forces are conducting an unspecified military operation in the area.[11] The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which is a leftist Palestinian militia aligned with Hamas in the war, mortared Israeli forces in eastern Jabalia on April 15.[12]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have not issued official evacuation orders for the area as of the time of writing. CTP-ISW assessed on March 25 that a small number of Palestinian fighters have likely infiltrated Beit Hanoun.[13] The ability of Palestinian militias to continue to operate in the northern Gaza Strip is consistent with the infiltration of fighters into the area and Hamas’ efforts to reassert its governing authority following the drawdown of Israeli forces.

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued operations near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on April 16.[14] Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters and destroyed military infrastructure. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fired rockets targeting an Israeli command and control node in southwestern Gaza City on April 15.[15] The Israeli defense minister said in February 2024 that the IDF has not defeated all four Hamas battalions in the central Gaza Strip and that it intends to dismantle the two remaining battalions.[16] CTP-ISW previously observed that Palestinian militias, including Hamas, have likely used a rear area in the central Gaza Strip to conduct attacks since mid-December that have targeted Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip.[17] Palestinian militias have also likely been able to infiltrate from the central strip into previously cleared areas of southern Gaza City. The IDF has conducted multiple raids in southern Gaza City since it decreased its force presence in the northern Gaza Strip in early 2024.[18]

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)—a department within the Israeli Defense Ministry—said that 126 aid trucks entered the northern Gaza Strip on April 16.[19] Israeli media reported that the delivery was part of IDF-COGAT efforts to increase aid deliveries into the Gaza Strip and especially into the northern Gaza Strip.[20] The initiatives include opening two bakeries and working on the Bani Suheil water pipeline, according to Israeli media.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Hamas rejected the most recent ceasefire agreement because it thought the April 13 Iranian attack on Israel would lead to a regional conflict.[21] Two attendees of a meeting between Blinken and American Jewish leaders told Axios about the substance of Blinken’s comments at the meeting. Hamas rejected the US-proposed ceasefire and hostage-for-prisoner exchange deal on April 13 hours before the Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel.[22] Hamas has since demanded new concessions from Israel in its counteroffer, according to one Israeli official.[23] The official said that Hamas sought to release fewer Israeli hostages in addition to asking for a higher ratio of hostage-for-prisoners and for Israel to release more Palestinian prisoners held under a life sentence.

Palestinian fighters fired two rockets from the northern Gaza Strip into southern Israel on April 16.[24] An Israeli military correspondent reported that both rockets struck open areas, causing no casualties or damage.[25]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have clashed with Palestinian fighters in at least three locations across the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 15. The IDF reported on April 16 that Israeli forces detained 23 wanted Palestinians during overnight operations in the West Bank.[26] Palestinian Mujahideen Movement fighters detonated an IED targeting Israeli forces in al Askar refugee camp. The militia separately targeted Israeli forces advancing into Nablus with unspecified munitions.[27] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades shot at Israeli forces operating in Jenin.[28]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah launched one-way attack drones targeting an Iron Dome battery near Beit Hilal.[29] Hezbollah has only claimed four attacks targeting Israeli Iron Dome batteries during the Israel-Hamas war.[30] LH previously claimed a drone attack targeting an Israeli Iron Dome battery on April 13 hours before the Iranian attack against Israel.[31] The IDF confirmed that two one-way attack drones entered Israeli airspace and exploded near Beit Hilal.[32] Israeli Army Radio reported that the drone attack injured three people and caused significant damage to unspecified ”property.”[33]

Hezbollah conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel on April 16, including the one-way drone attack targeting the Iron Dome battery.[34]

The IDF killed two Hezbollah commanders in southern Lebanon on April 16.[35] The IDF Air Force killed the commander of the Radwan Unit’s rocket and missile unit in Hezbollah’s Western Sector, Mohammed Hossein Metzafa Shouri.[36] The IDF added that Shouri oversaw the planning and execution of “many” rocket and missile attacks from southern Lebanon into Israeli territory. The IDF also killed a commander from Hezbollah’s “Coastal Sector,” Esmail Yousef Baz.[37] Baz held a rank equivalent to a brigadier general and served as a “senior” Hezbollah military official. Baz was responsible for directing rocket and anti-tank guided missile attacks into northern Israel.[38] Hezbollah acknowledged Baz’s death.[39]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian spoke with several of his foreign minister counterparts and representatives from various international organizations in separate phone calls on April 15 and 16.[40] Abdollahian spoke separately with the foreign ministers of China, Oman, Indonesia, and Malaysia, among others. Abdollahian held additional separate phone calls with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretary General and the Organization of Islamic States Secretary General on April 16.[41] Abdollahian claimed in his separate calls with the Indonesian foreign minister and Omani foreign minister that Israel is responsible for tension and instability in the region.[42] The foreign ministers of Malaysia, Austria, and the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged restraint from all parties involved.[43]

An anti-regime outlet posted a video of the Iranian military transporting drones, tanks, and other assorted military equipment in Tehran on April 16.[44] This is likely in preparation for the annual Artesh Day parade, which is held on April 18.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani continued his official visit to Washington, DC on April 16. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed support for transitioning to an “enduring bilateral security relationship” with Iraq during a meeting with Sudani on April 15.[45] Sudani has emphasized during 2024 that he seeks to end the US-led international coalition’s presence in Iraq and transition to a “comprehensive” bilateral relationship with the United States.[46] Sudani also claimed that Iraqi Security Forces are “at a high level of readiness” and are prepared to ensure security and stability in Iraq.[47] Iraqi security forces still face significant deficiencies in fire support, intelligence, and logistics that would impede their ability to eliminate ISIS and other domestic threats alone.[48] Austin also stated that Iraqi Defense Minister Thabet Mohammad al Abbasi requested “the pricing and availability” of US counter-drone systems on April 13.[49] Militias in the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces—a security service that exists outside of the Defense Ministry—have repeatedly launched drones targeting US troops in Iraq. Sudani separately met with a delegation from the US defense company General Dynamics on April 16 to discuss developing Iraqi tanks and other armor.[50] General Dynamics Land Systems builds US M1 Abrams tanks, and Iraq operates Abrams tanks.

Sudani also held separate meetings with US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo and US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on April 16.[51] Sudani and Adeyemo discussed “rehabilitating” Iraqi banks to meet international standards.[52] The United States has worked with Iraq in recent years to “improve the compliance procedures of Iraqi banks” to align Iraqi banks with international standards and “prevent terrorists, criminals, and corrupt and other illicit actors from accessing both the Iraqi and international financial systems.”[53] The US Treasury Department identified the Iraqi al Huda Bank as a “conduit for terrorist financing” and imposed sanctions on the bank’s owner in late January 2024.[54]

Houthi President Mahdi al Mashaat congratulated Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for the April 13 Iranian attack targeting Israel during a phone call on April 16.[55] Mashaat reaffirmed Yemen’s support for the Iranian attack. The Houthis also took part in the Iranian attack on April 13 by firing missiles and drones from Yemen targeting Israel.[56] Mashaat expressed an interest in “expanding and strengthening relations” with Iran in “various fields.”[57] Raisi praised Houthi attacks against Israel and international shipping in the Red Sea. Raisi said that these Houthi attacks demonstrate Yemen’s “resistance” and support for Palestinians.[58] 

Houthi-controlled media claimed on April 16 that the United States and the United Kingdom conducted two airstrikes targeting unspecified sites in Bajil District, Hudaydah Governorate, western Yemen.[59] The United States and the United Kingdom have not confirmed any airstrikes in Yemen at this time of writing.

 

Iran Update, April 15, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Andie Parry, Alexandra Braverman, Kathryn Tyson, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Peter Mills, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Israeli officials have emphasized the need to respond to the Iranian drone and missile attack but have not specified how or when they will do so.[1] An unnamed US official told Axios that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a phone call on April 15 that Israel has “no choice” but to respond to the Iranian attack.[2] Gallant stated that Israel will not allow ballistic missiles to be launched against its territory without a response. An unnamed Israeli official told NBC News that Israel’s response may be “imminent” following an Israeli war cabinet meeting on April 15. The official added that any Israeli response will be coordinated with the United States.[3]

Western and Israeli officials have maintained that the Iranian drone and missile attack into Israel on April 13 was meant to impose a severe cost on Israel—rather than the attack being symbolic and meant to fail.[4] US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby stated on April 15 that Iran sought to cause “extensive damage inside Israel” but failed due to US, Israeli, and partner efforts to intercept the Iranian projectiles.[5] Kirby’s remarks are consistent with other unnamed senior Biden administration officials telling Western media that Iran intended for the attack to cause “significant damage” and be “highly destructive.”[6] Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi similarly emphasized that Iran intended to harm the “strategic capabilities” of Israel but was unsuccessful during a statement at IDF Nevatim airbase on April 15.[7]

These statements from Western and Israeli officials are consistent with CTP-ISW's assessment that the Iranian drone and missile attack was meant to penetrate Israeli air defenses and enable missile impacts inside Israel, thus causing greater damage than the attack actually did. The attack was designed to succeed—not to fail. The strike package was modeled on those that Russia has used repeatedly against Ukraine to great effect.[8]

Three unnamed US officials told the Wall Street Journal on April 14 that roughly 50 percent of the ballistic missiles that Iran fired at Israel either failed to launch or crashed before reaching their target.[9] US officials stated that Iran launched between 115 and 130 ballistic missiles at Israel in its attack.

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Israeli officials have emphasized the need to respond to the Iranian drone and missile attack but have not specified how or when they will do so.
  • Western and Israeli officials have maintained that the Iranian drone and missile attack into Israel was meant to impose a severe cost on Israel.
  • Three unnamed US officials stated that roughly 50 percent of the ballistic missiles that Iran fired at Israel either failed to launch or crashed before reaching their target.
  • Gaza Strip: Hamas demanded several new concessions from Israel in its counteroffer to the US-proposed ceasefire agreement.
  • West Bank: Israeli settlers conducted a shooting attack and killed two Palestinians in Aqraba, which is near Nablus.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least six attacks around the Israel-Lebanon border.
  • Iraq: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani traveled to Washington, DC, to discuss bilateral US-Iraqi relations.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM stated that the Houthis launched an anti-ship ballistic missile toward the Gulf of Aden but did not damage any vessels.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The IDF Nahal Brigade continued to conduct clearing operations at the seam of the northern and central Gaza Strip on April 15 to secure Israeli-built highway Route 749 and other nearby Israeli military sites.[10] The IDF has dubbed this zone the Netzarim corridor. The Nahal Brigade killed 15 Palestinian fighters around the corridor over the past day.[11]

The IDF activated two reserve brigades on April 14 for combat operations in the Gaza Strip.[12] An Israeli Army Radio journalist reported on April 15 that the IDF 2nd Carmeli Brigade and 679th Armored Brigade will deploy to secure the Netzarim corridor and the temporary US-built pier in the central Gaza Strip.[13] The two brigades will replace elements of the 162nd Division in the Gaza Strip, enabling the division to conduct raids in other parts of the Gaza Strip.[14]

Israeli forces continued to conduct raids around Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on April 15.[15] Elements of the IDF 162nd Division, including the Nahal and 401st brigades, are operating in the area to kill Palestinian fighters and destroy military infrastructure.[16] The IDF Nahal Brigade destroyed buildings and military infrastructure used by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the central Gaza Strip. The brigade also directed airstrikes targeting Palestinian fighters and seized weapons. PIJ mortared an IDF headquarters near the University of Palestine, north of Wadi Gaza, on April 14.[17]

Three Palestinian militias targeted Israeli forces in eastern Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on April 15. Israeli forces continue to operate there, along the Israel-Gaza Strip border, to clear a one-kilometer buffer zone. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah, reported that its fighters mortared Israeli armor east of Jabalia cemetery.[18] PIJ and the Palestinian Mujahedeen movement posted videos of their fighters targeting Israeli forces with heavy mounted machine guns in eastern Jabalia on April 15.[19] CTP-ISW cannot verify when the groups recorded the footage.

The IDF Arabic-language spokesperson reiterated on April 15 that Palestinians cannot return to the northern Gaza Strip, calling the area “a dangerous combat zone.”[20] The IDF asked Gazans to remain in humanitarian zones and shelters in the southern Gaza Strip.[21] The statement marks the spokesperson’s second such appeal in two days, indicating that migration to the north remains a problem for the IDF.[22]Hamas has made the return of Gazans to the north a consistent demand in the ceasefire negotiations.[23]

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant held a meeting on April 15 to identify "necessary civilian operations" to accomplish before an IDF clearing operation into Rafah. The minister focused on the need to evacuate civilians from Rafah and increase food and medical supply transfers into the Gaza Strip.[24] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on April 8 that he had set a date for the clearing operation into Rafah.[25]

Hamas demanded several new concessions from Israel in its counteroffer to the US-proposed ceasefire agreement, according to one Israeli official.[26] Hamas rejected the US-proposed ceasefire and hostage-for-prisoner exchange deal on April 13 hours before the Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel.[27] The Israeli source claimed that Hamas sought to release only 20 Israeli hostages for a six-week ceasefire—half of the hostages reportedly proposed by the United States.[28] Hamas also reportedly asked for a higher ratio of hostage-for-prisoners and for more life-sentenced Palestinian prisoners to be released.[29] A recent Western report indicated that the US-proposal had a ratio of one Israel hostage for 17.5 Palestinian prisoners [30] White House spokesperson John Kirby said on April 15 that the United States believes that its proposal is still possible and that he is unaware of another proposal.”[31]

Palestinian fighters did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on April 15.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in Nablus on April 14 and 15.[32] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fired small arms and detonated IEDs targeting Israeli forces there.[33]

Israeli settlers conducted a shooting attack and killed two Palestinians in Aqraba, which is near Nablus, on April 15, according to Israeli media.[34] The IDF said that the attack followed a violent confrontation between a Jewish shepherd and Palestinian in the area.[35] The IDF said that Israeli forces responded to the scene and tried to diffuse the conflict after the shooting.[36] The IDF and Israeli police are investigating the incident.[37] Israeli media has reported an uptick in settler attacks in the West Bank following the murder of an Israeli boy near the Malachi Hashalom settlement on April 12.[38]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least six attacks around the Israel-Lebanon border since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 14.[39] The IDF said that an explosion injured four IDF soldiers in the “border area” of northern Israel on April 15.[40] Hezbollah said that it detonated “explosive devices” targeting IDF members in Tal Ismail, Lebanon, as they crossed the border into Lebanon.[41]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani met with US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, D.C., on April 15 to discuss bilateral US–Iraqi relations.[42] Sudani stated during his meeting with Biden that he aimed to discuss a “360-degree strategic partnership” and transition from a “military security-based relationship to a comprehensive economic, political, environmental, educational, and security partnership according to the Strategic Framework Agreement”.[43] CTP–ISW has previously assessed that Sudani is attempting to retain some US force presence in Iraq, but this policy places Sudani at odds with Iranian-backed groups which demand a full US withdrawal from Iraq.[44]

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—threatened on April 12 to renew its attack campaign targeting US forces in Iraq if there is a bilateral agreement between the United States and Iraq that permits US forces to remain.[45]

Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah congratulated Iran for its recent drone and missile attack on Israel and framed the attack as a success for penetrating Israeli air defense systems.[46] Western media reported that four out of the 100+ ballistic missiles launched by Iran penetrated Israeli air defenses and hit an IDF airbase in southern Israel.[47] Israeli media reported that the airbase suffered minimal damage.[48] Kataib Hezbollah also said that “the shame would haunt the rulers of Jordan” for supporting the US and Israeli effort to intercept Iranian projectiles.[49]

The IDF announced the interception of two drones approaching Israel. The IDF Navy intercepted a drone approaching near Eilat from the Red Sea on April 14.[50] The IDF separately reported on April 15 that it intercepted a drone approaching Israeli territory “from the east.”[51] Neither Iran nor an Iranian-backed group have claimed either attack at the time of this writing.

US CENTCOM stated that the Houthis launched an anti-ship ballistic missile toward the Gulf of Aden on April 13 but did not damage any vessels.[52] US CENTCOM destroyed four Houthi drones in Taiz Governorate on April 14 following the Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile attack.[53]

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian held phone calls with several of his foreign counterparts on April 14 and 15. Abdollahian spoke with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom, among others. Abdollahian claimed that the recent Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel was “legitimate self-defense” under Article 51 on the UN charter.[54] Abdollahian reiterated that, if Israel responds, the next Iranian attack would be “immediate, stronger, and more extensive.“[55] The foreign ministers of Egypt, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom separately emphasized the need for regional de-escalation in their phone calls with Abdollahian.

The Iranian Law Enforcement Command (LEC) resumed enforcing mandatory veiling throughout Tehran on April 13. LEC Tehran Provincial Unit Commander Brig. Gen. Abbas Ali Mohammadian announced that his forces would begin penalizing unveiled women on April 13.[56] Iranian social media users have correspondingly reported a sharp uptick in morality and veiling enforcement throughout Tehran City since then.[57] This enforcement involves arrests, fines, and verbal warnings.[58] Some users have reported similar enforcement activity in other cities, such as Karaj, Mashhad, and Yazd.[59] The Iranian regime reduced the number of morality patrols following the killing of Mahsa Amini in September 2022, although it did not entirely stop policing unveiled women in the months following her death.[60] Iranian social media users additionally noted an increased security presence in some Tehran universities in recent days, with some female dormitories reportedly requiring facial recognition technology for entry.[61] The full resumption of enforcing modesty standards in Tehran follows Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s call for mandatory veiling on April 3.[62]

Resumed veiling enforcement could exacerbate already existing anti-regime sentiments in Iran, especially amid deteriorating economic conditions and the ongoing escalation with Israel. One reformist-affiliated Iranian outlet wrote that the LEC risked submerging the country into a “state of crisis” following the recent Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel and compared the increased security presence in Tehran to an “invasion.”[63]

The Iranian rial separately reached a record low of 670,500 to one US dollar on April 12.[64]

Iran Update, April 14, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Andie Parry, Alexandra Braverman, Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, Peter Mills, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

For additional CTP-ISW analysis of the April 13 Iranian Strike Targeting Israel, please see Iran’s Attempt to Hit Israel with a Russian-Style Strike Package Failed...for Now by Brian Carter and Frederick W. Kagan

Senior Iranian military and political officials praised the alleged success of the April 13 Iranian attack against Israel and simultaneously warned the United States that Iran would target US bases in the region if the US supported an Israeli response.[1] Iranian Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS) Chief Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri warned that, if the United States supports any Israeli response to its attack, Iran will target US bases in the region.[2] Bagheri further specified that Iran intended to target the IDF Air Force Nevatim airbase in the Negev desert and the IDF intelligence center in Mt. Hermon during the attack against Israel. Iranian missiles caused limited damage to the Nevatim airbase, and the base remains operational.[3] There are no reports of any damage to the intelligence center in northern Israel. The IRGC issued a warning to the United States not to get involved in a response to the Iranian operation.[4] Artesh Commander Maj. Gen Abdol Rahim Mousavi stated that, if the United States uses any of its regional bases to support Israel, then Iran will consider the US bases legitimate targets and retaliate accordingly.[5] Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stated that, if Israel responds to the Iranian operation, Iran will retaliate with greater severity than its April 13 attack.[6] Raisi emphasized that Israel’s supporters, presumably meaning the United States, should ”appreciate” the ”responsible and propionate” nature of the Iranian April 13 operation.

A senior Iranian military official asserted on April 14 that Iran has adopted a new policy to target Israel directly from Iranian territory due to the “success” of the Iranian attack on Israel.[7] IRGC Commander Maj. Gen Hossein Salami stated that Iran has adopted a new “equation” for confronting Israel following the “success” of the attack, which Iran dubbed the “True Promise” operation.[8] Salami warned that, should Israel attack Iran or Iranian targets abroad, Iran will retaliate by launching attacks targeting Israel directly from Iranian territory.[9] This would represent a significant shift in Iranian policy, where historically Iran has relied on proxy and partners to launch attacks targeting Israel rather than conducting the attacks itself.

Israel and its partners are discussing possible responses to the Iranian attack on Israel. Israeli President Isaac Herzog said that the Iranian attack was “like a declaration of war” but emphasized that Israelis “are not war seekers.”[10] Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz stated that Israel would respond to the attack at a time of its choosing.[11] Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Israel Katz stated, “We said that, if Iran attacks Israel, Israel will attack Iran – that is still valid.”[12] US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the night of April 13 in a phone call that the United States will not participate in an offensive response to Iran’s attack.[13] Leaders from the Group of 7 nations (G7) convened on April 14 to coordinate a “diplomatic response” to Iran’s attack, according to the White House.[14] An unspecified Biden administration official said that the G7 leaders discussed the possibility of recognizing the IRGC as a terrorist organization, which the United States did in 2019.[15]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Senior Iranian military and political officials praised the alleged success of the April 13 Iranian attack against Israel and simultaneously warned the United States that Iran would target US bases in the region if the US supported an Israeli response.
  • A senior Iranian military official asserted that Iran has adopted a new policy to target Israel directly from Iranian territory due to the “success” of the Iranian attack on Israel.
  • Israel and its partners are discussing possible responses to the Iranian attack on Israel.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to clearing operations in Nuseirat along Wadi Gaza.
  • Political Negotiations: Hamas rejected a US-proposed ceasefire and hostage-for-prisoner exchange deal.
  • West Bank: A Palestinian militia claimed three shooting attacks in and around the West Bank in retaliation for recent settler violence.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel during and after the Iranian attack on Israel.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Israeli forces continued to clearing operations in Nuseirat along Wadi Gaza on April 14. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 401st Brigade combat engineers built two bridges for Israeli tanks to cross Wadi Gaza, a natural separation between the north and south of the Gaza Strip.[16] Elements of the IDF 162nd Division, including the Nahal and 401st brigades, are operating in the area to kill Palestinian fighters and destroy military infrastructure.[17][18] Israeli forces destroyed rocket launch sites in the central Gaza Strip that several Palestinian militias used .[19] Palestinian fighters had prepared to launch the rockets into Israel. Israeli forces have killed dozens of Palestinian fighters in close-range engagements over the past several days of operations in the Nuseirat area.[20]

Palestinian fighters claimed a single attack targeting Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip on April 14. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah, reported that its fighters mortared Israeli forces north of Nuseirat.[21]

Hamas rejected a US-proposed ceasefire and hostage-for-prisoner exchange deal on April 13.[22] The proposal would have reportedly established a six-week ceasefire in exchange for the release of 40 Israeli hostages held by Palestinian militias in the Gaza Strip.[23] Mediators presented Hamas with the US proposal on April 7.[24] Hamas reiterated in its rejection that the group would only accept a ceasefire proposal that includes a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the entire Gaza Strip, the return of the displaced Palestinians, an increase in the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and the start of reconstruction efforts.[25] [26] The Israeli Prime Minister's Office confirmed that Hamas rejected the ceasefire proposal on April 14 and said that the proposal ”included the most significant flexibility on Israel's part” since the beginning of negotiations.[27]

The IDF Arabic-language spokesperson reiterated on April 14 that Palestinians cannot return to the northern Gaza Strip, calling the area “a war zone.”.[28] The spokesperson specified that Palestinian civilians should not try to migrate to the northern Gaza Strip on the Salah al Din or al Rashid roads despite ”rumors” the IDF is allowing civilians to return.[29] Local Palestinian sources posted footage of crowds of Palestinians civilians walking to the northern Gaza Strip on al Rashid Road on April 14 as a munition exploded on near the road.[30] Israeli military correspondents previously hypothesized that the recent IDF withdrawal from the southern Gaza Strip would enable displaced Palestinians in Rafah to migrate to parts of Khan Younis and the central Gaza Strip.[31] [32]

Several Palestinian political factions, including Hamas, issued supportive statements of Iran’s April 13 attack on Israel. The groups called the Iranian attack a “natural” and “justified” response to the April 1 Israeli airstrike that targeted Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officials in Damascus.[33] The Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestinian, a secular leftist Palestinian group fighting alongside Hamas in the war, called the Iranian attack an “important turning point“ in the war.[34]

Palestinian fighters did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on April 14.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed three shooting attacks on April 13 in and around the West Bank in retaliation for recent settler violence. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades targeted an Israeli military checkpoint, an Israeli settlement near Tulkarm, and an Israeli town on the border with the West Bank..[35] An Israeli Army Radio West Bank correspondent posted a flyer signed by 11 West Bank Rabbis in response to the death of a 14-year-old boy who was murdered near the Malachi HaShalom settlement on April 12.[36] The flyer called on Israelis to strengthen and grow settlements across the West Bank in response to the boy’s death. Palestinian media claimed that Israeli settlers have targeted Palestinians in Auja, Huwwara, Jalazoun refugee camp, Kafr Shuba, and Nabe Ghazzal since CTP-ISW’s last data cut off on April 13.[37] CTP-ISW cannot independently verify these reports.

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel during and after the Iranian attack on Israel on April 13.[38]


Iran Update, April 13, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps 

Annika Ganzeveld, Alexandra Braverman, Johanna Moore, Ashka Jhaveri, Brian Carter, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 7:00 pm ET

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force launched a large-scale drone and missile attack from Iranian territory that targeted Israel from Iranian territory on April 13.[1] This marks the first time Iran has targeted Israel directly from Iranian territory.[2] Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari confirmed that Iran launched drones and then missiles from Iranian territory toward Israel.[3] The IRGC announced the start of operation “True Promise” at approximately 15:30 EST on April 13.[4] The Iranian Supreme National Security Council approved the attack and the IRGC Aerospace Force conducted the attack under the supervision of the Armed Forces General Staff. The IRGC launched hundreds of drones toward Israel, including Shahed-136 one-way attack drones.[5] The attack included at least three attack waves over the course of several hours.[6] Israeli media reported that the IRGC launched its operation from Kermanshah city, Kermanshah Province, and Dokuh, Hormozgan Province, in western Iran.[7]

The United States, United Kingdom, Israel, and Jordan began intercepting drones and missiles outside of Israeli airspace between 1700 and 1800 ET, according to Israeli media and several unspecified sources speaking to Israeli media.[8] IDF spokesperson Hagari said in a press briefing that Iran launched over 200 drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.[9] Flight radar reported that the airspace over Iran, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon is closed.[10] The Iranian Permanent Mission to the United Nations posted on X (Twitter) that the operation was launched in response to the April 1 Israeli airstrike targeting IRGC officials in Damascus. The Iranian Permanent Mission wrote that the Iranian “True Promise” operation “can be deemed concluded” at 1800 ET.[11]

Members of Iran’s so-called “Axis of Resistance” appear to have conducted attacks targeting Israel simultaneously with Iran’s first wave of attacks. Lebanese Hezbollah claimed it fired “dozens” of Katyusha rockets targeting an Israeli missile and artillery base in the Golan Heights at 1800 ET.[12] The Houthis posted two promotional videos about destroying Israel during Iran’s wave of drone attacks, but has not claimed any attack at the time of writing.[13] The Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq (True Promise Corps) congratulated the Islamic Resistance in Iraq on April 13 for participating in the attack targeting Israel.[14] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has not claimed an attack at the time of writing. The Iranian-backed Badr Organization posted a graphic celebrating Iran’s attack on Israel stating that “we are among the criminals taking revenge” suggesting that the militia may have supported the attack on Israel in an unspecified capacity.[15]

The Israeli war cabinet convened on April 13 in Tel Aviv and remains in session.[16] Israel immediately took certain preventative measures after the first wave of drones were launched. Israel closed its airspace.[17] The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) evacuated several bases, deployed aircraft, and raised air defense readiness.[18] The IDF instructed residents along its northern border in the Golan Heights, Eilat, Dimona, and Nevatim (Negev region) to remain close to shelters.[19]

Iran warned Israel’s partners, particularly the United States and Jordan, not to intervene in Iran’s attack against Israel. Supreme National Security Council-affiliated media warned the United States against intervening in Iran’s attack, claiming that Iran has prepared ballistic missile platforms to target “several US bases in the region.”[20] The Iranian Permanent Mission to the UN similarly warned the United States to “stay away” from the conflict between Iran and Israel.[21] The United States and the United Kingdom have intercepted over 100 drones outside of Israeli airspace at the time of this writing.[22] IRGC-affiliated media separately warned Jordan that it will be Iran’s “next target” if it participates in an Israeli response to Iran’s attack.[23] Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani warned that Iran will give a “decisive response” to any country that allows Israel to use its airspace or territory to conduct a counterattack against Iran.[24] Israeli media reported that Jordanian aircraft shot down Iranian drones headed toward Israel over northern and central Jordan.[25]

The composition of the ongoing Iranian attack on Israel is similar to the composition of Russian strikes have repeatedly targeted Ukraine. These Russian strikes have attempted to determine the optimal package to penetrate Western air and missile defenses. Russia has experimented with combinations of ballistic and cruise missiles alongside Iranian drones in Ukraine.[26] Iran’s use of drones and missiles shows how Iran is learning from the Russians to develop increasingly dangerous and effective strike packages against Israel. Iran has also used the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea to refine Iranian drone tactics by testing US Navy air defenses.[27] The ongoing Iranian attacks provide Iran opportunities to evaluate the effectiveness of different strike packages to understand how they can evade and overwhelm US air and maritime defenses more effectively.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy seized a Portuguese-flagged, Israeli-linked commercial vessel in the Strait of Hormuz on April 13, likely as part of its campaign to impose an unofficial blockade on Israel.[28] IRGC-controlled media published a video of IRGC Navy forces repelling from a helicopter onto the MSC Aries.[29] The Zodiac Maritime, a shipping company owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, owns the MSC Aries and chartered the vessel to the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC).[30] The MSC confirmed that the MSC Aries, which was en route from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to India, was “boarded by Iranian authorities” and “diverted from her itinerary towards Iran.”[31] IRGC-controlled media emphasized that the seizure of the MSC Aries “has nothing to do with Iran’s retaliatory measure” against Israel for the April 1 Israeli airstrike that killed seven IRGC officials in Damascus.[32]

The IRGC Navy’s seizure of the MSC Aries comes amid increased Iranian threats to the UAE. IRGC Navy Commander Rear Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri recently claimed that Israel’s presence in the UAE threatens Iran and reiterated the long-standing Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz during an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-controlled media on April 9.[33] Israel has increasingly relied on an overland trade route that connects Haifa to Dubai via Jordan and Saudi Arabia to compensate for reduced trade activity at the Port of Eilat due to the Houthis’ anti-shipping campaign.[34] Tehran and its regional allies have threatened to disrupt the Israeli ground connection to the Persian Gulf. Iranian state media and Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have criticized the UAE for allowing Israel to conduct trade through its territory.[35] Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have specifically called for the dismantlement of Israel’s “land bridge” through Jordan.[36] The IRGC Navy may have specifically targeted the Aries MSC to increase pressure on the UAE to sever economic ties with Israel.

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Iran launched a large-scale drone and missile attack from Iranian territory that targeted Israel from Iranian territory.
  • The IRGC Navy seized a Portuguese-flagged, Israeli-linked commercial vessel in the Strait of Hormuz, likely as part of its campaign to impose an unofficial blockade on Israel
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike targeting Palestinian fighters in Beit Hanoun.
  • West Bank: The IDF announced that it found the body of the missing 14-year-old Israeli boy in the West Bank near Malachi HaShalom. Israeli media is widely reporting that Israeli settlers committed acts of violence in at least eight Palestinian towns in the northern West Bank after the IDF found the missing boy’s body.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least 12 attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Air Force conducted an airstrike targeting Palestinian fighters in Beit Hanoun on April 13. The IDF Northern Brigade (Gaza Division) located the Palestinian fighters using a drone.[37] The IDF Northern Brigade most recently conducted a raid in Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, south of Beit Hanoun.[38] CTP-ISW assessed on March 25 that a small number of Palestinian fighters have likely infiltrated Beit Hanoun.[39] The IDF reported that Israeli forces killed a Hamas company commander for the Beit Hanoun area during clashes with Hamas fighters in the area on April 4.[40] Palestinian militias continued ability to operate in the northern Gaza Strip is consistent with the assessed infiltration of fighters into the area and Hamas’ intentions to reassert its governing authority following Israeli withdrawals.

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations outside Nuseirat along Wadi Gaza on April 13. Elements of the IDF 162nd Division, including the Nahal and 401st brigades, are operating in the area to kill Palestinian fighters and destroy military infrastructure.[41] Israeli forces destroyed a Hamas weapons storage facility and confiscated military equipment belonging to the group during clearing operations.[42] Commercially available satellite imagery captured on April 12 shows flattened terrain in Zahra, north of Nuseirat, indicating that Israeli bulldozers and/or heavy vehicles are operating in the area.

Several Palestinian militias claimed attacks targeting Israeli forces near Nuseirat on April 13. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah, reported that its fighters conducted five attacks north of Nuseirat during the past two days, which included firing a rocket-propelled grenade at an IDF tank.[43] The Popular Resistance Committees, which is a Palestinian militia aligned with Hamas in the war, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighters conducted separate mortar attacks targeting Israeli forces and a military position north of Nuseirat, respectively.[44]

The IDF Air Force struck over 30 targets in the Gaza Strip on April 13, including anti-tank equipment.[45]

PIJ and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) conducted a combined rocket attack from the Gaza Strip targeting Sderot in southern Israel on April 12.[46] The IDF said that it intercepted three rockets.[47] Israeli artillery targeted the launch site of the attack in the Gaza Strip. The IDF Air Force struck three rocket launchers in the Gaza Strip that contained about 20 rockets ready to be launched into central Israel.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

The IDF announced on April 13 that it found the body of the missing 14-year-old Israeli boy in the West Bank near Malachi HaShalom.[48] The IDF reported that unspecified persons killed the boy with a blade and that the investigation is ongoing.[49] The IDF initially began searching for the boy with Israeli settlers on April 12 near the Israeli settlement of Malachi HaShalom.[50] Israeli and Palestinian media reported violence occurred in al Mughayir, a Palestinian town west of Malachi HaShalom, during the search on April 12. The IDF reported that there were “violent disturbances” in al Mughayir but that the Israeli forces entered the town and removed the Israeli settlers from the area.[51] Palestinian Authority-affiliated media confirmed that at least one Palestinian civilian died during the violence.[52] Israeli Army Radio reported that the IDF is preparing for widespread riots and “disturbances” across the West Bank in response to the boy’s death[53][54]

Israeli media is widely reporting that Israeli settlers committed acts of violence on April 13 in at least eight Palestinian towns in the northern West Bank after the IDF found the missing boy’s body. The IDF reported that participants in clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in several areas of the West Bank threw stones and fired weapons.[55] Israeli Army Radio reported that Israeli settlers rioted and committed acts of violence in al Mughayir, Dumas, Abu Falah, Beit Furik, and Kosra.[56] The Jerusalem Post cited unspecified Israeli, Arab, and US media who reported that Israeli settlers also targeted Deir Dibwan, Sinjil, and Beitin.[57] Israeli media and local reports reported that Israeli settlers set fire to cars and Palestinian homes.[58] There were also reports of casualties during the violence. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that three Palestinians were wounded in al Mughayr.[59] Israeli media reported that Israeli settlers fired small arms, killing a Palestinian in al Mughayir.[60] Israeli Army Radio reported that Israeli settlers shot and injured three Palestinians.[61]

Senior Israeli cabinet officials appeared to call on Israeli settlers to return home in an attempt to restore order. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Israeli citizens to allow Israeli forces to operate “unhindered.”[62] Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant added that “revenge” will make it difficult for Israeli forces to pursue the boy’s killers.[63] Gallant and Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz urged the Israeli settlers not to take the law “into [their] own hands.”[64] The IDF reported later on April 13 that clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians had ended.[65]

Palestinian militias called for a general mobilization of fighters and Palestinian civilians in response to settler violence that occurred in the West Bank on April 12 and 13. Hamas called on Palestinian militias and civilians in the West Bank to take up arms and escalate “resistance activity” against Israeli forces and settlers.[66] Hamas also called on the Palestinian Authority to exercise its authority to protect Palestinians in the West Bank.[67] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade announced a general mobilization of all of its fighters in Tulkarm to retaliate against the settler violence at al Mughayir.[68] The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine posted a statement calling for the formation of a “popular protection committee” in all Palestinian towns in the West Bank to “confront” settler “crimes” and to “thwart their malicious goals.”[69]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least 12 attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 11.[70] Hezbollah fired one-way attack drones targeting an Iron Dome site near Kfar Blum.[71] The IDF confirmed that a drone fell in the Kfar Blum area.[72] Hezbollah claimed that the Israelis are using the site as an alternative to one at Kfar Blum after a Hezbollah attack targeting the Iron Dome batteries there in January 2024.[73] CTP-ISW cannot corroborate the claim.

Iran Update, April 12, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps 

Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, Amin Soltani, Kathryn Tyson, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

The Islamic Resistance in Iraqan umbrella organization of Iranian-backed Iraqi militiasthreatened on April 12 to renew its attack campaign targeting US forces in Iraq.[1] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq rejected any bilateral agreement between the United States and Iraq that permits US forces to remain in Iraq. The group threatened to “torment [the United States] with fire” if US forces are not removed from Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani will meet with US President Joe Biden in Washington, DC, on April 15 to discuss the trajectory of US-Iraqi relations under the Strategic Framework Agreement.[2] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq’s threat follows Sudani’s article in Foreign Affairs on April 11 in which he articulated his intent to expand US and Iraqi cooperation beyond security and military affairs to include economic, agricultural, industrial, technological, and energy cooperation.[3] Sudani’s articulated policy is currently at odds with the demands set by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which include the full withdrawal of US forces.

CTP-ISW previously warned that some Iranian-backed Iraqi militias may regard Sudani’s visit to Washington as a decisive moment and could decide to resume attacks targeting US forces if the visit does not result in tangible steps toward removing US forces from Iraq.[4] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has paused attacks targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria since February 2024, when the United States killed a senior Kataib Hezbollah commander in Baghdad.[5] The pause in attacks coincided with the start of negotiations between Washington and Baghdad over the status of the US-led international coalition in Iraq.[6] Asaib Ahl al Haq Secretary General Qais Khazali suggested on April 10 that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias could resume attacking US forces if Sudani’s upcoming visit to Washington, DC fails to force the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.[7]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—an umbrella organization of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias— threatened to renew its attack campaign targeting US forces in Iraq.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF killed multiple Hamas personnel affiliated with Hamas’ governance structures and military organizations in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • The IDF continued an operation on the outskirts of Nuseirat along Wadi Gaza.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces killed senior Hamas commander Muhammad Omar Daraghmeh in Tubas on April 12.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iran: US CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael Kurilla continued to meet with Israeli officials in Israel to discuss preparations for a possible Iranian attack targeting Israel.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM intercepted a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile over the Red Sea.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed multiple Hamas personnel affiliated with Hamas’ governance structures and military organizations on April 11 in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike that killed the head of Hamas’ internal security in Jabalia, Radwan Muhammad Abdallah Radwan.[8] Palestinian media reported that Radwan was the director of a police station and that he coordinated aid distribution.[9] The IDF said that Radwan was also a member of Hamas’ military wing and directed other Palestinian fighters to take over humanitarian aid trucks in the area.[10] The IDF also killed another senior official in Hamas’ internal security operations in Jabalia and another fighter in an unspecified Hamas battalion in Jabalia.[11]

Hamas remains determined to reconstitute itself militarily and reassert its authority in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has made attempts to coopt and undermine possible alternatives to its rule, facilitate trade, and rehabilitate its local police in the northern Gaza Strip.[12] The IDF is conducting operations in the northern Gaza Strip to disrupt Hamas' attempts to reconstitute its governing authority.[13] Israel has previously targeted members of Hamas’ police and internal security apparatus. The Civil Police and the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry’s Internal Security Forces in Gaza both employ fighters from the Hamas military wing.[14]

The IDF continued an operation on the outskirts of Nuseirat along Wadi Gaza on April 12. Elements of the IDF 162nd Division, including the Nahal and 401st Brigades, killed Palestinian fighters and destroyed military infrastructure.[15] Israeli forces raided a school in Zahra, north of Nuseirat. The IDF discovered weapons and a residence at this location. The IDF reported that Hamas fighters were staying at the residence.[16] The IDF 215th Artillery Brigade supported ground operations in the central Gaza Strip.[17]

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) claimed that its fighters detonated a minefield and used an explosively formed penetrator to target Israeli armor in a complex attack at a military position north of Nuseirat.[18] Palestinian militias, including PIJ and Hamas, claimed several attacks targeting Israeli forces in Zahra in mid-March 2024.[19] The militias may have infiltrated into Zahra and other areas of southern Gaza City from areas of the central Gaza Strip that the IDF has not yet cleared. The militias also likely reactivated dormant cells after the Israelis decreased the number of IDF troops in the northern Strip in late December.

The IDF Air Force struck more than 60 targets in the Gaza Strip on April 12, including underground military infrastructure.[20]

A humanitarian aid convoy entered the northern Gaza Strip on April 12 through a new crossing.[21] The convoy underwent security checks at the Kerem Shalom crossing before entering the Gaza Strip. The aid delivery was coordinated by the IDF and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)—a department within the Israeli Defense Ministry—“as part of efforts to enhance the humanitarian aid corridors to the Gaza Strip in general, and to the north in particular.”[22] The IDF said on April 11 that Israel approved the construction of another border crossing into the northern Gaza Strip as part of Israeli efforts to boost aid.[23] 

The American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) charity resumed aid operations in the Gaza Strip on April 11.[24] ANERA temporarily paused operations following the death of an ANERA staff member and the Israeli strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers on April 1.[25] ANERA said that Israeli authorities informed them during a meeting that “certain measures would be taken to protect humanitarian aid workers in the Gaza Strip.”[26] Israeli military officials met with several international aid organizations on April 10 to discuss the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.[27]

The United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated three entities on April 12 affiliated with Hamas’ offensive cyber and drone operations.[28] The European Union simultaneously imposed sanctions targeting Hamas.[29] These designations are part of broader US efforts to disrupt Hamas’ ability to conduct future attacks.

OFAC sanctioned the following individuals:

  • Hamas’ military wing spokesperson Hudhayfa Samir Abdallah al Kahlut (al Kahlut) also known as “Abu Ubaida”
  • William Abu Shanab (Abu Shanab)
  • Baraa Hasan Farhat (Farhat)
  • Khalil Muhammad Azzam (Azzam)

A bipartisan group of US House of Representatives members is introducing legislation to sanction the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) for their role in the October 7 attacks.[30] The PRC is a Palestinian militia aligned with Hamas in the war. The group has claimed multiple attacks targeting Israeli forces and Israel during IDF ground operations.[31] Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) stated that the militia has “flown under the radar and avoided real consequences for their horrific crimes.”[32] The legislation also requires the US Department of State to issue a report on whether to designate the PRC and the West Bank-based Lion’s Den group as terrorist organizations.[33]

Palestinian fighters did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on April 12.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in two locations in the northern West Bank on April 12.[34]  The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fired “light weapons” and detonated improvised explosive devices in two separate attacks targeting Israeli forces around Tubas and Qalqilya.[35] Israeli forces detained five wanted individuals in overnight operations across the West Bank.[36]

Israeli forces killed senior Hamas commander Muhammad Omar Daraghmeh in Tubas on April 12.[37] The IDF reported that Daraghmeh shot at Israeli forces who returned fire and killed him. The IDF said that Daraghmeh was a “central Hamas operative” and “promoted” militia activity in the region.[38] Israeli forces killed Daraghmeh’s predecessor “about a month and a half ago,” according to Israeli Army Radio.[39] Hamas confirmed Daraghmeh’s death.[40] Palestinian Authority-affiliated media reported that Israeli forces killed another Palestinian fighter during fighting in al Faraa refugee camp during the raid.[41]

The IDF announced on April 12 that it launched a search and rescue operation for a 14-year-old boy near the Malachi Shalom settlement.[42] Israeli media reported that the IDF air, ground, and special operations forces launched a search and rescue operation with Israeli settlers from Malachi Shalom to find the boy who went missing while herding sheep.[43] The settlers volunteered to assist the IDF. The exact cause of the boy’s disappearance is still unknown.[44]

Israeli and Palestinian media reported violence occurred in al Mughayir, west of Malachi Shalom. Local footage confirms these reports.[45] The IDF confirmed that there were “violent disturbances” in al Mughayir but that the IDF entered the town and removed the Israeli citizens from the town.[46] Israeli and Palestinian media also reported Israeli and Palestinian casualties.[47] Palestinian Authority-affiliated media confirmed that at least one Palestinian civilian died during the violence.[48] The details of these events are unclear. CTP-ISW will provide additional details as information becomes available.

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 11.[49]

Hezbollah fired approximately 40 rockets targeting Israeli “artillery positions” in al Zaoura in the Golan Heights on April 12.[50] The IDF said that it intercepted some rockets and that the rest of the rockets fell in open areas.[51]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

US Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Michael Kurilla continued to meet with Israeli officials in Israel on April 12 to discuss preparations for a possible Iranian attack targeting Israel.[52] Kurilla met with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi to discuss US and Israeli preparations ahead of a potential Iranian attack against Israel.[53] Kurilla also met with other senior Israeli military officials, including IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, on April 11.[54] Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened that they will retaliate against Israel in response to the Israeli airstrike that killed several senior IRGC officers in Damascus on April 1.[55]

Kurilla’s visit to Israel coincides with heightened US military readiness and warnings of an “imminent” Iranian attack targeting Israel. US media and US government officials said on April 12 that the United States is moving additional assets into the region, including air defenses to protect US forces in Iraq and Syria, in preparation for the “viable threat” of an Iranian attack on Israel.[56] The Wall Street Journal reported that the additional assets include two US Navy destroyers.[57] Unspecified US officials also warned that the US and Israel are expecting a “major Iranian attack” using “more than 100 drones and dozens of missiles” on “southern or northern Israel” as early as April 12 or 13.[58] US officials similarly told Western media on April 10 and 11 that an Iranian drone and missile attack targeting Israel was "imminent.”[59]

The present nature of the information space makes it difficult to forecast when precisely Iran might launch a retaliatory strike targeting Israel, if Iran attacks Israel at all. Western estimations of when Iran will conduct an attack have varied and could be subject to change. The likelihood that Iran is spreading disinformation surrounding its strike increases the difficulty of forecasting the timing of the retaliation.[60]

President Ebrahim Raisi and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari discussed recent tensions between Iran and Pakistan during a phone call on April 11.[61] Raisi is scheduled to travel to Pakistan on April 22.[62] He warned that “hegemonic world powers”—a standard Iranian reference to the United States and the West—are attempting to create divisions between Tehran and Islamabad. He also stressed the need for Muslims to reject Salafi-jihadi groups, including ISIS. Raisi also called for information sharing between Pakistan and Iran to “overcome security challenges.”[63] A series of attacks in southeastern Iran since December 2023 by Salafi-jihadi groups operating along the Iran-Pakistan border has strained relations between Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan designated the Zainabiyoun Brigade–an Iran-backed Pakistani Shia militia operating in Syria–as a terrorist organization on April 11.[64] Iran and Pakistan also exchanged missile and drone strikes in January 2024 after Iran targeted anti-regime militants inside Pakistan.[65]

US CENTCOM intercepted a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile over the Red Sea on April 11.[66] CENTCOM said that the missile was launched from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen and did not cause any damage to US, coalition, or commercial ships.

 


Iran Update, April 11, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Alexandra Braverman, Ashka Jhaveri, Kathryn Tyson, Peter Mills, Annika Ganzeveld, Amin Soltani, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Iran appears to be exploiting the uncertainty surrounding its reported “imminent” attack against Israel to stoke psychological terror in Israel. Western media reported on April 10 that Iran could launch drone and missile strikes into Israel imminently in retaliation for the IDF recently killing several senior IRGC officers in Damascus.[1] Iranian state media posted on X (Twitter) later on April 10 that the Iranian defense minister announced the closure of the airspace around Tehran for a military exercise.[2] Iranian regime-affiliated channels then began circulating posts suggesting that an Iranian attack into Israel would soon occur.[3] The coincidence of these posts led to extensive public speculation that Iran would launch an attack into Israel while the airspace around Tehran was closed. Iranian state media shortly thereafter retracted the claims of Iranian airspace being closed and denied that the Iranian defense minister made any related announcement.[4] The publication and retraction of these reports is bizarre, especially given that the Iranian defense minister should have no role in the maintenance of Iranian airspace. Iranian military and political officials have boasted in recent days that the impending nature of their attack is itself damaging to Israel, suggesting that the media reports may have been part of a sophisticated information operation.[5] Stoking terror in Israel is consistent with CTP-ISW’s previous observation that Iranian leaders want the Israel-Hamas war to catalyze migration away from Israel and thereby erode the long-term viability of the Jewish state.[6]

The present nature of the information space makes it difficult to forecast when precisely Iran might launch a retaliatory strike into Israel if at all. Western estimations of when Iran will conduct an attack have varied and could be subject to change. The likelihood that Iran is spreading disinformation surrounding its strike exacerbates the issue further.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant clarified on April 10 that Israel’s war aim in the Gaza Strip is to prevent Hamas from conducting another October 7-style attack into Israel again.[7] Gallant said that preventing another October 7-style attack is what Israeli leaders mean when saying that they seek to destroy Hamas as a military organization. Gallant added that the IDF has already destroyed four of Hamas’ five brigades and that Israeli forces are currently contending with “hotspots” of militia activity across the Gaza Strip.[8] The remaining brigade that Israeli leaders say that they have not yet destroyed is in Rafah.

Israeli operations have likely degraded Hamas in the Gaza Strip severely, rendering Hamas unable to restore its military wing to pre-October 7 levels in the short term. Gallant described Hamas’ military force as comparable to an “organized commando division” prior to the war. Israel has since then destroyed a large quantity of Hamas’ military infrastructure and weapons as well as killed thousands of fighters in the Gaza Strip thus far. Hamas fighters are currently operating as small squad- and platoon-sized cells instead of the well-organized structure they had prior to the war. Hamas will thus require extensive resources and time to rebuild their military force.

Hamas remains determined to reconstitute itself militarily and reassert its authority in the Gaza Strip, however. Hamas is already trying to coopt and undermine possible alternatives to its rule, which is evident by the reported Hamas attack targeting a head of a local clan in March 2024.[9] Hamas is also attempting to facilitate trade and rehabilitate local police in the northern Gaza Strip, which are parts of Hamas’ larger effort to restore control over the civilian population.[10] Gallant acknowledged that Israel must empower a local alternative to Hamas in a post-war scenario.[11]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Iran appears to be exploiting the uncertainty surrounding its reported “imminent” attack against Israel to stoke psychological terror in Israel.
  • Gaza Strip: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant clarified that Israel’s war aim in the Gaza Strip is to prevent Hamas from conducting another October 7-style attack into Israel again.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in Tulkarm in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least three attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani wrote an article for Foreign Affairs reiterating his intention to end the US-led international coalition’s presence in Iraq and transition to a “comprehensive” bilateral relationship with the United States.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM confirmed that it intercepted three Houthi drones over the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on April 11 that it had conducted a raid in Shujaiya in the northern Gaza Strip in recent days.[12] The IDF Northern Brigade (Gaza Division) has conducted “targeted activities” in the area recently, including killing Palestinian fighters and destroying military infrastructure, such as a Hamas training base

Palestinian militias conducted several attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip on April 11. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah, mortared Israeli vehicles south of Gaza City.[13] Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) separately said that it conducted a sniper attack targeting an Israeli soldier in al Taqa, east of Gaza City.[14]

The IDF announced on April 11 that it conducted an operation targeting Hamas outside Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip. The IDF Nahal Brigade and 401st Brigade led the operation around Nuseirat.[15] The IDF Air Force coordinated with the 215th Artillery Brigade (162nd Division) and directed airstrikes targeting dozens of Palestinian fighters and military infrastructure before Israeli ground forces entered the area.[16] The Nahal Brigade identified a fighter emerging from a tunnel, and the IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike targeting the fighter as they approached Israeli forces.[17] The IDF Navy separately conducted several strikes targeting Palestinian fighters along the central Gaza Strip coast.[18]

The Palestinian Mujahideen Movement and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP-GC) conducted a combined mortar attack targeting Israeli forces north of Nuseirat refugee camp on April 11.[19] PFLP-GC is a Palestinian faction based primarily in Syria.[20] The faction receives support from Iran and has cooperated with other elements of the Axis of Resistance.[21] This event marks the second known instance of the PFLP-GC attacking the IDF in the Gaza Strip since the Israel-Hamas war began.[22]

The IDF and Shin Bet killed a Hamas fighter who was responsible for financing Hamas military activities in Rafah, on April 11.[23] The IDF said that the fighter transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hamas in December 2023 for its operations in Rafah.[24]

Israeli media reported on April 11 that an IDF Southern Command colonel approved the airstrike that killed three sons of Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh in the northern Gaza Strip on April 10.[25] Israeli media reported that senior Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, were not aware of the strike before it occurred.[26] Israeli media reported that the IDF targeted Haniyeh’s sons over their involvement in holding Israeli hostages.[27] The reports are consistent with the IDF reporting on April 10 that Haniyeh’s sons were Hamas fighters.[28] Unspecified Israeli officials told Israeli media that IDF leaders believed that Israel is not close to a ceasefire deal with Hamas and that the strike would not affect hostage negotiations.[29]

The IDF said on April 11 that Israel is increasing the delivery of aid into the Gaza Strip, particularly to the northern part.[30] Israeli Defense Minister Gallant said that these efforts are part of the next Israeli phase of humanitarian efforts and include opening new crossings into the Gaza Strip, boosting aid deliveries from Jordan, establishing a joint command to coordinate military operations and aid efforts, and other projects, such as the establishment of a temporary floating pier.[31] IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said that Israel approved the construction of another border crossing into the northern Gaza Strip and the opening of the Port of Ashdod to enable more aid flow.[32] Hagari's comments are consistent with an Israeli Army Radio report on April 10 that Israel would construct a new crossing instead of opening the Erez crossing.[33] Hagari also said that the IDF is establishing field hospitals and other kinds of infrastructure as well as providing food, water, and shelter in the central Gaza Stirp.[34] The IDF said on March 13 that it plans to move civilians from Rafah to “humanitarian enclaves” in the central Gaza Strip before any Israeli clearing operation into Rafah.[35] Israel expects the number of trucks entering the Gaza Strip to increase gradually from 350 to 500 per day.[36] The UN Security Council said in a statement on April 11 that it acknowledged the Israeli efforts to facilitate more aid into the Gaza Strip “but stressed that more should be done to bring the required relief given the scale of needs in Gaza.”[37]

Israeli military officials met with several international aid organizations on April 10 to discuss the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.[38] The IDF Southern Command Commander Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)—a department within the Israeli Defense Ministry—Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alyan met with representatives from UN agencies, the Red Cross, and USAID, among others.[39] Israeli officials presented their upcoming plans for increasing the pace of aid transfers into the strip. Israeli Army Radio noted that the meeting followed the Israeli strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers on April 1.[40] Some aid organizations have suspended operations in the Gaza Strip following the WCK attack, citing concerns of a lack of protection for civilians.[41] The IDF spokesperson said on April 11 that the IDF is implementing lessons learned from WCK attack.[42]

Unspecified Palestinian fighters conducted an indirect fire attack from the central Gaza Strip into Israel on April 11.[43] Israeli Army Radio reported that four munitions fell short inside the Gaza Strip. No Palestinian militia has claimed responsibility for the attack at the time of this writing.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in Tulkarm in the West Bank on April 11.[44] The IDF reported on April 11 that Israeli forces arrested six wanted individuals across the West Bank.[45] The IDF seized small arms during these operations. Israeli forces separately arrested an individual in Hebron on suspicion of them planning to conduct a stabbing attack.[46]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least three attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 10.[47]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani wrote an article for Foreign Affairs on April 11 reiterating his intention to end the US-led international coalition’s presence in Iraq and transition to a “comprehensive” bilateral relationship with the United States.[48] Sudani likely published the article as part of his preparations for his official visit to Washington, DC, on April 15. Sudani said that US and Iraqi military officials agreed to end the US-led international coalition’s presence in Iraq “in a gradual and orderly manner on an agreed timeline,” although he did not provide details on this timeline.[49] Sudani argued that the US-Iraqi relationship should extend beyond military and security cooperation to include economic, energy, and technological cooperation.[50] US and Iraqi officials began talks about the status of the US-led international coalition in late January 2024.[51] The latest round of talks occurred on April 8 under the chairmanship of US CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla and Iraqi Armed Forces General Staff Chief Gen. Abdel Emir Rashid Yarallah.[52]

US CENTCOM confirmed that it intercepted three Houthi drones over the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea on April 10. The Houthis claimed on April 10 that they conducted several attacks targeting commercial and military vessels in the Gulf of Aden.[53]

US CENTCOM preemptively struck eight Houthi drones in Houthi-controlled Yemen on April 10.[54] CENTCOM assessed that the drones presented an imminent danger to commercial and military vessels in the region. Houthi-affiliated media separately claimed that the United States conducted airstrikes near Hudaydah on April 10.[55]

US Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla traveled to Israel on April 11 to coordinate preparations for a possible Iranian and/or Iranian-backed attack into Israel. Kurilla met with senior Israeli military officials, including IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari.[56] Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened that they will retaliate for Israel killing several senior IRGC officers in Damascus on April 1.[57]

Iran Update, April 10, 2024

Click here to read the full report

Annika Ganzeveld, Alexandra Braverman, Andie Parry, Johanna Moore, Kathryn Tyson, Peter Mills, Ashka Jhaveri, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Bloomberg reported on April 10 that Iran or its proxies may conduct missile or drone strikes targeting military and government facilities in Israel in the coming days in response to the April 1 Israeli airstrike that killed seven IRGC officials in Damascus.[1] Sources familiar with US and Israeli intelligence told Bloomberg that Iran or its proxies might use high-precision missiles in the strikes. One of the sources said that it is “a matter of when, not if” Iran will respond to the April 1 airstrike. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz warned on April 10 that Israel would attack Iran if “Iran attacks [Israel] from its own territory.”[2] IRGC-affiliated media dismissed Katz’s warning, claiming that Israel seeks to deter Iran from responding to the April 1 airstrike and warning that Iran must respond.[3]

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—will not conduct attacks targeting US forces in Iraq as part of Iran’s response to the April 1 airstrike, according to two “knowledgeable sources” who spoke to a UK-based Saudi outlet on April 10.[4] A “Shia source” told the outlet that Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leaders have had “intensive contacts” with Iranian officials since April 1 and that the two sides have agreed to “continue the calm” in Iraq.[5] Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Chief of Staff and senior Kataib Hezbollah official Abdul Aziz (Abu Fadak) al Mohammadawi visited Tehran for Iran's annual, anti-Israel holiday, Quds Day, on April 5.[6] Iranian officials and media previously attributed the April 1 Israeli airstrike to the United States, claiming that the United States gave Israel the “green light” to conduct the strike.[7] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has not claimed an attack targeting US forces in Iraq since early February 2024.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant implicitly warned Iran on April 10 against launching an attack on Israel in response to the April 1 Israeli airstrike that killed seven IRGC officials in Damascus.[8] Gallant said that Israel knows how to respond with “decisive offensive action” targeting any actor in the Middle East that attacks Israel.[9] Gallant’s comments are consistent with warnings from other Israeli officials who have emphasized Israel’s preparation for an Iranian attack and a strong Israeli response to an Iranian attack.[10] Unnamed US, Israeli, and other unspecified Western officials told the Washington Post on April 4 that they expected Iran to retaliate with drones or missile attacks against Israeli targets that would be ”calibrated to avoid an even bigger response from Israel.”[11]

Asaib Ahl al Haq Secretary General Qais al Khazali hinted on April 10 that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias could resume attacking US forces if Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani’s upcoming visit to Washington, DC, fails to facilitate the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.[12] Sudani will travel to Washington on April 15, in part to discuss the status of the US-led international coalition in Iraq with US officials.[13] Khazali said that the “success” of Sudani’s upcoming visit to Washington, DC, will depend on whether his visit facilitates the removal of “all foreign forces” from Iraq.[14] Khazali warned that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias would force US forces to leave Iraq “if diplomatic efforts fail,” which could be an implicit threat to use military force to expel US forces.[15] Khazali may also be referring to political efforts to expel US forces.[16] Iranian-backed political actors have attempted in recent months to pass a law calling for the removal of US forces from Iraq and requiring Sudani to detail how his administration would end the US military presence in Iraq.[17]

Iranian-backed Iraqi militias and political actors have been conducting a political and military campaign in recent months to try to expel the United States from Iraq.[18] Iranian-backed Iraqi militias conducted over 190 attacks targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria between October 2023 and February 2024. These militias suspended their attacks targeting US forces in February 2024 following a one-way drone attack that killed three US servicemembers in northeastern Jordan.[19] The pause in attacks also coincided with the start of negotiations between Washington and Baghdad about the status of the US-led international coalition in Iraq.[20] Some Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leaders have warned since the negotiations began that “[their] patience will not last long.”[21] The militias may regard Sudani’s visit to Washington as a decisive moment and could decide to resume conducting attacks targeting US forces if the visit does not result in tangible steps toward removing US forces from Iraq, such as the creation of a timetable for their withdrawal.

Iran and its Axis of Resistance have been engaged in a coordinated campaign to economically isolate Israel by encouraging Muslim nations during the Israel-Hamas war to sever economic relations with Israel. Many senior Iranian leaders have repeatedly urged Muslim nations during the Israel-Hamas war to cut off political and economic relations with Israel.[22] Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called it “treason” for any Muslim country to aid Israel and urged all Muslim nations to cut off economic relations with Israel “at least temporarily” during his speech for Eid al Fitr speech on April 10.[23]

Some Muslim countries have heeded this call, including Turkey. Turkey announced on April 9 that it would immediately restrict the export of 54 key products to Israel in response to Israel’s reported denial of Turkish aid efforts and the Israeli refusal to implement the UNSC ceasefire resolution from March 24.[24] President Ebrahim Raisi stated that Muslim countries cutting off economic relations with Israel is the “most effective deterrent power” during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on April 10.[25] President Erdogan stated that Israel is more isolated today than ever before.[26] Malaysia banned Israeli-owned and –linked shipping from its ports in December 2023 in “response to Israel’s actions...against the Palestinian people.” The Houthi supreme leader “praised” Malaysia’s position, calling the economic pressure on Israel one way to support the Palestinian cause.[27]

Iran and its Axis of Resistance have also implicitly and explicitly threatened the UAE and Jordan for cooperating with Israel. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei claimed during his April 10 Eid al Fitr speech that Israel “enters [Islamic] countries” for ulterior motives rather than for the benefit of the host country.[28] Senior Iranian military leaders and its regional allies have recently criticized the UAE for allowing Israel to conduct trade in its territory.[29] IRGC Navy Commander Rear Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri claimed on April 9 that Israel is present in the UAE under the pretext of “economic work” but actually engages in security and military activities there that threaten Iran.[30] Tangsiri issued this statement in an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-controlled media, likely to pressure the UAE to sever ties with Israel.[31] These statements may also refer to the overland trade route Israel is using to offset its losses caused by the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. Israel’s overland ground trade routes have taken on new importance after trade decreased at the Port of Eilat.[32] Iranian-backed Iraqi militias also threatened to “cut” Israel’s “land bridge” through Jordan.[33] These militias would probably use missile and drone attacks to generate this effect, given their lack of political influence in Jordan.

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Bloomberg reported that Iran or its proxies may conduct missile or drone strikes targeting military and government facilities in Israel in the coming days in response to the April 1 Israeli airstrike that killed seven IRGC officials in Damascus.
  • Iran and its Axis of Resistance have been engaged in a coordinated campaign to economically isolate Israel by encouraging Muslim nations to sever economic relations with Israel throughout the Israel-Hamas War.
  • Iraq: Asaib Ahl al Haq Secretary General Qais al Khazali hinted that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias could resume attacking US forces if Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani’s upcoming visit to Washington, DC, fails to facilitate the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike that killed three sons of Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Political Negotiations: Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh said that Israel would not get more concessions in the negotiations from Hamas after an IDF strike in the Gaza Strip killed three of his children.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in Tulkarm in the West Bank during Israeli operations there.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least two attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Syria: The IDF said that it struck a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) site that was operated by Lebanese Hezbollah in southern Syria.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM reported that it intercepted a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile in the Gulf of Aden. CENTCOM assessed that the Houthi attack was likely targeting the US-flagged and owned commercial vessel the MV Yorktown.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian militias conducted several indirect fire attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip on April 10. Hamas and the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement conducted a joint mortar attack targeting Israeli forces in southwest Gaza City.[34] The Palestinian Mujahideen Movement is a Palestinian faction aligned with Hamas that has expressed close ties with Iran. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Air Force struck a launch site from which Palestinian fighters had targeted Israeli forces in Shujaiya with indirect fire. Hamas claimed a mortar attack targeting Israeli forces in Shujaiya on April 9.[35]

The Palestinian Mujahideen Movement claimed that it fired a man-portable air defense system targeting an Israeli fighter jet in western Gaza City.[36]

The IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike on April 10 that killed three sons of Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh in the northern Gaza Strip.[37] The IDF reported that Haniyeh’s sons were Hamas fighters en route from al Shati camp to conduct an attack in the central Gaza Strip when Israel killed them.[38] The IDF said that one of the sons was a squad leader and the other two sons were fighters in Hamas’ military wing. The presence of Hamas fighters in al Shati camp is consistent with the infiltration of Palestinian fighters into areas of the northern Gaza Strip where Israeli forces have conducted several clearing operations. It is notable that Haniyeh‘s sons—three Hamas fighters—were using al Shati camp as a rear base to conduct attacks further south, given that Israeli forces re-cleared areas of al Shati in early February 2024.

Several regional leaders, including Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh to offer their condolences following the Israeli airstrike that targeted three of Haniyeh’s sons.[39]

The IDF Nahal Brigade continued clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on April 10.[40] The Nahal Brigade killed a squad of Palestinian fighters in close quarters combat.[41] The Nahal Brigade is operating around the border of the central and northern strip to secure the Israeli highway and bases nearby.[42] The IDF reported on April 10 that the Nahal Brigade is conducting targeted operations and raids near the Israeli highway, which the IDF has dubbed the “Netzarim corridor.” Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in the area and destroyed military infrastructure, including tunnel shafts. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades conducted a mortar attack targeting an IDF command site near the Netzarim corridor.[43]

The IDF Air Force conducted several airstrikes targeting Palestinian military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip on April 10.[44] The IDF destroyed military sites, launch sites, and tunnel shafts.[45] The IDF Air Force also targeted a Palestinian fighter squad that threatened Israeli forces.[46]

Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh said on April 10 that Israel would not get more concessions in the negotiations from Hamas after an IDF strike in the Gaza Strip killed three of his children.[47] Haniyeh also stated that Israeli leaders “are delusional if they think that by killing my sons we will change our positions.”[48] Hamas said on April 8 that the latest ceasefire proposal does not meet its demands but that it is still reviewing the proposal.[49]

Senior US officials continued to discuss a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. US President Joe Biden expressed support for an immediate six-to-eight-week ceasefire in the Gaza Strip during an interview published on April 9 but recorded last week.[50] Biden also called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's actions in Gaza Strip “a mistake” in reference to the IDF airstrike that mistakenly killed seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen on April 1.[51] US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on April 9 that negotiators are waiting on Hamas to make a decision and that “the world is watching to see what [Hamas] will do.”[52]

An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported on April 10 that Israel would not open the Erez crossing with the northern Gaza Strip for aid transports.[53] The Israeli War Cabinet approved on April 5 the imminent reopening of the crossing, which has been closed since the beginning of the war.[54] The correspondent said that Israel is concerned that protesters could block the crossing and prevent the shipment of aid into the Strip, as they have at other crossings.[55] Israel will instead establish a new border crossing in a “less central location” in the northern Gaza Strip to facilitate the transfer of aid.[56]

Palestinian fighters did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on April 10.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in Tulkarm in the West Bank during Israeli operations there on April 9.[57]

Israeli forces detained nine wanted individuals across the West Bank during overnight operations on April 10.[58] Israeli forces detained three wanted individuals and confiscated small arms in Qalandiya near Ramallah and detained six other individuals in Tulkarm.[59] Israeli forces also seized weapons and money near Hebron.[60]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least two attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 9.[61]

The IDF said that it struck a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) site that was operated by Lebanese Hezbollah in southern Syria on April 9.[62] An Israeli journalist reported that the IDF has claimed two prior strikes targeting Hezbollah in southern Syria on February 3 and March 12.[63] Israeli media reported in 2020 that the SAA’s 1st Corps, which is responsible for areas of southern Syria near the Golan Heights, is closely affiliated with Hezbollah.[64] The IDF did not specify whether it used artillery or aircraft to target the SAA position.

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it launched two drones targeting an oil terminal in Haifa, Israel on April 10.[65] CTP-ISW cannot verify this attack claim. Israeli officials and media have not commented on the attack at the time of this writing.

Six unnamed Iranian officials and diplomats told Reuters on April 10 that Iran has provided the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) with Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the past few months.[66] An unspecified senior Sudanese army source told Reuters that the Iranian UAVs have helped the SAF “turn the tide of the war” by halting the progress of the Rapid Support Force (RSF) and regaining territorial control in areas surrounding the capital. A Netherlands-based independent Sudanese media outlet stated that the drones have been “decisive” in tactical engagements, allowing the SAF to track, isolate and destroy RSF fighters in the capital.[67] Western media previously reported in January 2024 that Iran had supplied the SAF with Mohajer-6 multirole drones.[68] An unspecified regional source close to Iran’s political elites told Reuters that Iran’s Qeshm Fars Air has transported Mohajer and Ababil drones to Sudan several times since the end of 2023 .[69] The Mohajer-6 has a range of 200-2,000 km and uses Almas guided anti-tank missiles and Ghaem guided glide bombs.[70] The Ababil drones have a range of 120-480 km and use Almas guided anti-tank missiles and Ghaem guided glided bombs.[71] Reuters did not specify which type of Ababil drones Iran supplied to Sudan. Iran has reportedly supplied drones to Sudan since at least 2019.[72]

The Washington Post reported on April 10 that Iran is rapidly accumulating enriched uranium at its Fordow enrichment facility outside of Qom.[73] The Washington Post reported that unspecified inspectors have witnessed increased activity at the Fordow facility after the US withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018. The report also said that the Fordow facility is producing highly enriched uranium at a faster rate than ever before, even though Iran recently sought to dilute some of its highly enriched uranium.[74] Iran previously claimed that the near-weapons grade uranium discovered at the Fordow enrichment facility in January 2023 was due to an unintended fluctuation in enrichment levels.[75] The IAEA assessed that the information Iran provided to the IAEA was “not inconsistent” with Iran’s explanation that the near-weapons grade uranium was caused by an unintended fluctuation in enrichment levels.

US CENTCOM reported on April 9 that it intercepted a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile in the Gulf of Aden. CENTCOM assessed that the Houthi attack was likely targeting the US-flagged and owned commercial vessel the MV Yorktown.[76] The Houthis claimed on April 10 that they conducted two attacks targeting US-flagged vessels, including the Yorktown and an unspecified US warship.[77] The Houthis also claimed two attacks targeting two “Israeli” commercial vessels named the MSC Gina and the MSC Darwin.[78] CENTCOM reported on April 9 that there were no injuries or damage to commercial or military vessels.[79] UK Maritime Trade Operations reported that there were no security alerts from April 9 and 10.[80] 

Houthi-affiliated media claimed that the United States conducted airstrikes near Hudaydah on April 10.[81] 

Iran Update, April 9, 2024

Click here to read the full report

Annika Ganzeveld, Andie Parry, Ashka Jhaveri, Kathryn Tyson, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, Peter Mills, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

IRGC Navy Commander Rear Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri implicitly threatened the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-controlled media on April 9, likely to pressure the UAE to sever ties with Israel.[1] Tangsiri issued a series of threatening messages, all of which appear aimed at the UAE, during the interview. Tangsiri reiterated the long-standing Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz and furthermore suggested that Israel is cooperating with the UAE against Iran. Tangsiri claimed that Israel is present in the UAE under the pretext of “economic work” but actually engages in security and military activities there that threaten Iran.[2] Tangsiri’s decision to conduct the interview with an Arabic-language outlet further suggests that he intended to message to an Arabic-speaking audience.

Tangsiri’s comments are part of a larger Iranian effort to impose an unofficial blockade on Israel. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has urged regional states to cut trade ties with Israel and institute a blockade in response to the Israel-Hamas war. The Houthis have conducted over 40 attacks targeting commercial vessels in the Red Sea since November 2023, as part of this Iranian-led call effort, causing maritime traffic through the Red Sea to decline by approximately 50 percent since January 2024.[3] Israel has increasingly relied on overland trade with the Gulf States in recent months to compensate for reduced trade activity at the Port of Eilat due to the Houthis’ anti-shipping campaign.[4] Tehran and its regional allies have focused in more recent weeks on disrupting the Israeli ground connection to the Arabian Peninsula. Iranian state media and Iranian-backed Iraqi militias recently criticized the UAE for allowing Israel to conduct trade through its territory.[5] Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have, moreover, called for the dismantlement of Israel’s “land bridge” through Jordan, as CTP-ISW previously noted.[6]

Tangsiri separately endorsed the strategy of “strategic patience” in response to the April 1 Israeli airstrike that killed seven IRGC officials in Damascus. “Strategic patience” is a long-standing Iranian regime policy that involves not immediately conducting a major response to Israeli attacks. Tangsiri claimed that Iran will “strike [Israel] hard at the right time,” but emphasized that Iran will not act “emotionally” or “hastily.”[7] Tangsiri added that “it is not the case that [Iran] will not give a response.”[8] Numerous senior Iranian military officials, including Armed Forces General Staff Chief Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri and Supreme Leader Military Affairs Adviser Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, have similarly stated in recent days that Iran will respond to the April 1 airstrike “at the right time.”[9]

US, Israeli, and Iranian officials told the New York Times that Iran is operating a smuggling network through Jordan to arm Palestinian fighters in the West Bank.[10] The Iranian officials described this effort as meant to ”foment unrest against Israel.” They added that Tehran is not trying to arm any particular Palestinian militias and is using Bedouin smuggling networks in Jordan and Iranian-backed militias in Syria to facilitate the transfer of materiel into the West Bank. US and Israeli officials said that the Iranian-backed networks are specifically involved in moving small arms, anti-tank missiles, and rocket-propelled grenades. Iran’s smuggling network in Jordan could enable already motivated militias in the West Bank to attacks on Israeli targets.

The Iranian effort to build its capabilities and networks in the West Bank is part of a larger effort to encircle Israel militarily. IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami presented in August 2022 the clearest articulation yet from an Iranian official on how they plan to destroy Israel, and he placed special emphasis on growing anti-Israel militancy around the West Bank[11] Afshon Ostovar, a well-know analyst on Iran, suggested to the New York Times that Iran may be focusing on arming the West Bank because it anticipates having more limited access to militias in the Gaza Strip in the future.[12] Tehran has sought to develop the capabilities and infrastructure of its militia network in the West Bank in recent years, but the Israel-Hamas war has highlighted the shortcomings of its networks there.[13]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: IRGC Navy Commander Rear Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri implicitly threatened the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-controlled media, likely to pressure the UAE to sever ties with Israel.
  • Tangsiri separately endorsed the strategy of “strategic patience” in response to the April 1 Israeli airstrike that killed seven IRGC officials in Damascus.
  • West Bank: US, Israeli, and Iranian officials told the New York Times that Iran is operating a smuggling network through Jordan to arm Palestinian fighters in the West Bank.
  • The Iranian effort to build its capabilities and networks in the West Bank is part of a larger effort to encircle Israel militarily.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias conducted several indirect fire attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Central Gaza Strip: The IDF Air Force killed the Maghazi mayor, whom Israel says was a member in Hamas’ military wing in the central Gaza Strip.
  • Political Negotiations: Hamas said on April 8 that the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal does not meet its demands.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Syria: The IDF and local Syrian sources reported that unspecified Iranian-backed militants launched a rocket from Syria targeting the Yonatan region of the Golan Heights.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it conducted five attacks into Israel using “appropriate weapons” over the previous 72 hours.
  • Iran: Jaish al Adl—a Baloch, Salafi-jihadi militia group—conducted an attack killing at least five Iranian Law Enforcement Command (LEC) officers in Sib and Soran county, Sistan and Baluchistan Province.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM reported that it targeted Houthi air defense systems in Houthi-controlled Yemen. CENTCOM separately intercepted a Houthi drone over the Red Sea.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian militias conducted several indirect fire attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip on April 9. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) claimed that it mortared an Israeli command site southwest of Gaza City.[14] Hamas separately claimed that it mortared Israeli forces near Shujaiya neighborhood in eastern Gaza City as well as an Israeli command site near where the IDF is constructing a highway in southern Gaza City.[15]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued to conduct clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on April 9. The Nahal Brigade killed and directed an airstrike targeting several Palestinian fighters.[16] The Nahal Brigade is operating around the border of the central and northern strip to secure the Israeli highway and bases nearby.

The IDF Air Force conducted several airstrikes targeting Palestinian military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip on April 9.[17] The IDF destroyed the site from which PIJ launched rockets into southern Israel on April 8.[18] The IDF separately conducted an airstrike in Khan Younis, killing a Palestinian fighter, who was involved in the October 7 attack.[19]

The IDF Air Force killed the Maghazi mayor, whom Israel says was a member in Hamas’ military wing in the central Gaza Strip on April 8.[20] The IDF said that the mayor, Hatem Saleh al Ghamri, was part of Hamas’ Emergency Committees, which is responsible for maintaining public order and civil control.[21] Ghamri was also reportedly a fighter in Hamas’ Maghazi Battalion.[22] CNN reported that Hamas condemned the strike and said that Ghamri was the mayor of the Maghazi refugee camp.[23] The IDF previously killed five members of Hamas’ Emergency Committees in Rafah in March 2024.[24]

Israeli media close to the IDF reported on April 9 that the Israeli forces withdrawn from Khan Younis will prepare for fighting in other areas and carry out large, unspecified humanitarian operations.[25] The IDF withdrew most of its forces from the Gaza Strip on April 7, including the IDF 98th Division, which had been operating around Khan Younis for four months.[26] The report noted that Israeli forces are preparing for fighting in Rafah, among other unspecified places.[27]

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on April 8 that Israel has not yet set a date for a clearing operation into Rafah, according to an unidentified source with direct knowledge.[28] Gallant’s comments follow Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that Israel has set a date for the offensive.[29] US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Israel has not informed the United States on the date of the operation.[30]

Hamas said on April 8 that the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal does not meet its demands.[31] The group is currently reviewing the proposal and will soon inform international mediators of its response. The Wall Street Journal, citing officials' part of the negotiations, reported that Israel and Hamas still disagree over key aspects of a deal, including the return of displaced Palestinians to the northern Gaza Strip, the identities of Palestinian prisoners set to be released under the deal, and the future of Israeli military operations in the strip.[32] The officials noted that Hamas has demanded the free movement of displaced Palestinians to the north, while Israel has rejected the unconditional return of Palestinians there. Unspecified Egyptian officials reported that Israel wants to inspect Palestinians moving from the south to the north to stop potential Hamas fighters from returning alongside civilians.[33] CTP-ISW previously reported how Hamas could use the return of civilians to the north to bring its own fighters back to the area amid Hamas attempts to reassert its authority there.[34]

Israel reported that it has increased the amount of aid moving into the Gaza Strip.[35] The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)—a department within the Israeli Defense Ministry—announced that Israel has expanded the scope of aid and doubled the daily number of civilian trucks that can move through the Kerem Shalom crossing.[36] COGAT claimed that UN aid agencies are not using the full capacity of the Kerem Shalom route.[37] Israel said 468 trucks entered the Gaza Strip on April 9, which is the highest rate since the war began.[38] The United Nations reports much lower numbers, noting that many trucks are only half full because of Israeli inspection rules.[39] US State Departments spokesperson Matthew Miller said on April 8 that the high number of trucks entering the Gaza Strip “represents a significant improvement, but it is important not just that we see the daily number continue to grow, but that it be sustained over time.”[40]

Palestinian fighters did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on April 9.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 8.[41] Israeli forces detained nine wanted Palestinians, including one Hamas member, in the West Bank during the operations there.[42] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade fired small arms and detonated improvised explosive devices in two separate attacks targeting Israeli forces around Nablus and Tulkarm.[43] Israeli forces separately engaged Palestinian fighters in Jayyus, east of Qalqilya.[44]

A PIJ cell in Jenin claimed a shooting attack on April 9 targeting Gan Ner, which is in northern Israel near the border with the West Bank.[45]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 8.[46] Hezbollah fighters launched a one-way attack drone targeting an Israeli counter-drone electronic jamming device south of Kiryat Shmona.[47]

The IDF and local Syrian sources reported that unspecified Iranian-backed militants launched a rocket from Syria targeting the Yonatan region of the Golan Heights on April 8.[48] Israeli forces targeted the launch site in Daraa Province with artillery fire.[49] The IDF also said that it conducted strikes on Syrian Arab Army infrastructure in Mahaja region, Daraa Province, in a separate attack.[50]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed on April 8 that it conducted five attacks into Israel using “appropriate weapons” over the previous 72 hours.[51] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed that its targets included the Ashkelon oil terminal and the Hatzerim airbase near Beer Sheva, among other unspecified ”vital targets.” CTP-ISW cannot verify these attacks. Western analysts reported that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq used Paveh cruise missiles in most of the attacks, according to footage that the group published.[52] The IDF intercepted a drone that entered Israeli airspace from the east and was headed toward Eilat on April 8.[53]

US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski met with Iraqi National Security Adviser Qasim al Araji ahead of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani’s visit to Washington, DC, on April 15.[54] Romanowski stated that the United States and Iraq are moving toward a “bilateral security agreement.” Iraqi officials previously stated that Sudani’s visit to Washington will focus on the status of the US-led international coalition in Iraq and the “transition to a comprehensive partnership."[55] Washington and Baghdad began talks to evaluate the status of the US-led international coalition in Iraq in late January 2024.[56] US and Iraqi officials held the latest round of Higher Military Commission talks on April 8.[57]

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian warned that the “coming days will be difficult days for Israel” during a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad, on

 April 8.[58] Abdollahian reiterated that the United States should be held responsible for the Israeli airstrike that killed several senior IRGC officers in Syria on April 1. Abdollahian emphasized that Syria is at the ”frontline” of the Axis of Resistance. Abdollahian’s comments follow several senior Iranian military officials suggesting that they will carefully calibrate Iran’s response.[59]

US CENTCOM reported that it targeted Houthi air defense systems in Houthi-controlled Yemen on April 8. CENTCOM separately intercepted a Houthi drone over the Red Sea on April 8.[60]

CENTCOM reported that the Houthis have launched five anti-ship ballistic missiles targeting the UK-owned, Italian-operated commercial vessel MV Hope Island.[61]

Jaish al Adl—a Baloch, Salafi-jihadi militia group—conducted an attack on April 9 killing at least five Iranian Law Enforcement Command (LEC) officers in Sib and Soran county, Sistan and Baluchistan Province.[62] Jaish al Adl claimed that it “completely destroyed” three LEC vehicles during the attack.[63] There has been a significant uptick in anti-regime militancy in southeastern Iran since December 2023. Jaish al Adl most recently conducted a series of unprecedently complex and sophisticated attacks targeting Iranian security forces in Sistan and Baluchistan on April 4.[64] The uptick in Jaish al Adl attacks, and the complexity of the April 4 attack, illustrate the increasingly precarious state of Iranian internal security, especially in Sistan and Baluchistan province.


Iran Update, April 8, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Andie Parry, Amin Soltani, Annika Ganzeveld, Kathryn Tyson, Peter Mills, Christian Engfer, Tor Lansing, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Brian Carter

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Senior Iranian military officials have continued to suggest that they will carefully calibrate Iran’s response to Israel’s killing of senior IRGC commanders in Syria. This careful approach aims to avoid a direct war with Israel. Iranian Armed Forces Chief of the General Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri said on April 6 that Iran will strike Israel “at the right time” during a commemoration ceremony for the IRGC officers killed in the likely Israeli airstrike on April 1[1] The Military Affairs Adviser to the Iranian Supreme Leader Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi separately said during a similar commemoration ceremony on April 7 that Iran “must wait for the right time” to deliver its response.[2] Several senior Iranian clerics close to the Office of the Supreme Leader endorsed “strategic patience”—a long-standing regime policy that involves not immediately conducting a major response to Israeli attacks—in their weekly sermons on April 5.[3] Such comments support CTP-ISW's assessment that Iran seeks to avoid a direct military confrontation against the United States and Israel. Strategic patience does not exclude an eventual Iranian retaliation, however.[4]

Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on April 8 warned that Iran will retaliate for the April 1 Israeli airstrike, illustrating the possibility of an eventual response to the attack.[5] Nasrallah’s made these comments during a Hezbollah ceremony for IRGC commander Mohammed Reza Zahedi in Beirut. Nasrallah said that Iran has a ”natural right” to retaliate against the airstrike because it represented ”an attack on Iranian territory.”[6] Nasrallah added that the United States and Israel recognize that an Iranian response to the attack is ”inevitably coming.”[7] Zahedi spearheaded Iranian engagement with Hezbollah and most recently commanded the IRGC Quds Force unit responsible for overseeing operations in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the Palestinian Territories.[8] Zahedi was the only non-Lebanese member of Hezbollah’s Shura Council, which is led by Nasrallah and serves as the groups’ central decision-making authority.[9]

Arabic-language media outlet Jadeh Iran reported on April 7 and 8 that Iran has conditioned its potential response to the April 1 Israeli strike on a ceasefire in Gaza. Arabic-language outlet Jadeh Iran reported on April 7 and 8 that Iran informed the United States that it would not retaliate against Israel for the April 1 strike if the United States could secure a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, citing “an anonymous Arab diplomatic source.[10] Jadeh Iran is an outlet founded by an al Jazeera journalist. An Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry official told Kuwait-based newspaper Al Jarida on April 8 that the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry told the United States that Iran would not respond to the April 1 Israeli airstrike if there was ”a ceasefire in Gaza.”[11] The US State Department spokesperson denied these reports on April 8.[12] The Jadeh Iran reporting coincides with claims from Western media and Israeli officials that Israel and Hamas negotiators had made ”significant progress” in negotiations or reached a “critical point“ during on going negotiations in Cairo.[13]

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian is engaging in political coordination with Iranian partners and Oman following the April 1 Israeli airstrike that targeted Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officials in Damascus. Abdollahian traveled to Muscat, Oman, on April 7 to meet with his Omani counterpart, Sayyid Badr al Busaidi, and chief Houthi negotiator and senior official Mohammad Abdul Salam.[14] An “anonymous Arab diplomatic source” telling Arabic-language outlet Jadeh Iran on April 7 that Iran would refrain from retaliating against Israel for the April 1 airstrike if Israel and Hamas reach a ceasefire.[15] It is not clear whether the diplomatic source told Jadeh Iran about this Iranian position before or after Abdollahian’s meeting with Busaidi. Oman has historically served as an intermediary and messenger between Iran and the United States, including by facilitating nuclear negotiations between the two countries. Oman also serves as an intermediary between the Gulf States and the United States and the Houthis. Abdollahian separately thanked the Houthis for supporting Iran following the April 1 airstrike and claimed that Israel used “American-made aircraft and missiles” in the airstrike during his meeting with Abdul Salam.[16]

Abdollahian also traveled to Damascus, Syria, on April 8 and met with Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Foreign Affairs Minister Faisal Mekdad.[17] Abdollahian claimed that the United States is directly responsible for Israel’s “crimes and actions” and that Iran’s response to the April 1 airstrike will be “decisive” during his meeting with Assad.[18] Assad called for strengthening the Axis of Resistance “as much as possible” in response to the Israeli airstrike.[19] Abdollahian visited a Syrian Foreign Affairs Ministry employee who was injured in the airstrike and inaugurated a new Iranian consular building in Damascus with Syrian Foreign Affairs Minister Faisal Mekdad.[20]

Israel and Hamas are considering a new US-proposed ceasefire and hostage exchange deal. The deal would reportedly establish a six-week ceasefire in exchange for the release of 40 Israeli hostages held by Palestinian militias in the Gaza Strip.[21] Israel would release at least 700 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages.[22] Hamas must submit a list of 40 living hostages to mediators, which has reportedly been a sticking point in negotiations, including the most recent talks on April 7.[23] The new proposal reportedly calls for Israel to make additional concessions on the return of displaced Palestinian civilians to the northern Gaza Strip by allowing Palestinians to return to the northern Gaza Strip at a more rapid pace than the Israelis had previously proposed.[24] Israel submitted a ceasefire proposal on April 2 that reportedly allowed for the gradual return of 60,000 displaced Palestinians to unspecified zones of the northern Gaza Strip at a rate of 2,000 per day.[25] Hamas rejected the April 2 proposal.[26]

Israeli officials and mediating countries have acknowledged the potential for a ceasefire deal, while anonymous Hamas sources have expressed skepticism about a ceasefire deal.[27] Hamas said on April 7 that its negotiating delegation arrived in Cairo for talks with mediators but that it would adhere to its previous demands regarding a permanent ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.[28] An anonymous Hamas official said on April 8 that there was ”no progress” on April 7.[29] White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby confirmed on April 8 that Hamas has received the proposal and will be waiting for Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar’s response over the next several days.[30] The Israeli security cabinet is scheduled to discuss the proposal on April 9.[31] The Israeli foreign minister said on April 8 that negotiations had ”reached a critical point” for the first time since the previous ceasefire deal in November 2023.[32] Egyptian and Qatari sources have also issued optimistic statements on the status of negotiations.[33]

An Israeli source told an Israel Army Radio correspondent that the IDF hopes Hamas will agree to the ceasefire so that Palestinian civilians sheltering in Rafah can migrate north before an Israeli clearing operation into Rafah at the end of the six-week ceasefire.[34] Unspecified Israeli sources claimed that the IDF withdrawal from the southern Gaza Strip will enable displaced Palestinians in Rafah to migrate to parts of Khan Younis and the central Gaza Strip.[35] Israel and aid organizations have not yet constructed encampments in the southern and central Gaza Strip to which Gazans could migrate, however. Western media and local sources published images of destruction in Khan Younis after the IDF withdrawal.[36]

An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported that Palestinian militias resumed launching rockets from Khan Younis shortly after the IDF’s withdrawal on April 7.[37] Several Israeli brigades were involved in clearing operations in Khan Younis throughout February and March, likely reducing the ability of Palestinian fighters to launch rockets from the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli military correspondent said that Palestinian militias launched six rockets into Israel from Khan Younis on April 7 and 8, compared to the five rockets that the groups launched from Khan Younis in all of February and March.[38] The IDF said that Palestinian fighters fired three rockets on April 7 that fell in empty areas of Israel from Khan Younis.[39] The IDF Air Force conducted airstrikes on the rocket launch sites and additional militia infrastructure near the site.[40]

IDF Southern Command has directed airstrikes targeting Hamas rocket launch sites in the al Mawasi humanitarian area west of Khan Younis City over the past several days.[41] The IDF said that it ensured civilians evacuated from the area before conducting the airstrikes.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Iran: Senior Iranian military officials have continued to suggest that they will carefully calibrate Iran’s response to Israel’s killing of senior IRGC commanders in Syria. This careful approach aims to avoid a direct war with Israel. This approach does not exclude an eventual Iranian retaliation, however.
  • Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on April 8 warned that Iran will retaliate for the April 1 Israeli airstrike, illustrating the possibility of an eventual response to the attack.
  • Arabic-language media outlet Jadeh Iran reported on April 7 and 8 that Iran has conditioned its potential response to the April 1 Israeli strike on a ceasefire in Gaza.
  • Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian is engaging in political coordination with Iranian partners and Oman following the April 1 Israeli airstrike that targeted Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officials in Damascus.
  • Ceasefire Negotiations: Israel and Hamas are considering a new US-proposed ceasefire and hostage exchange deal. Israeli officials and mediating countries have acknowledged the potential for a ceasefire deal, while anonymous Hamas sources have expressed skepticism about a ceasefire deal.
  • Gaza Strip: An Israeli source told an Israel Army Radio correspondent that the IDF hopes Hamas will agree to the ceasefire so that Palestinian civilians sheltering in Rafah can migrate north before an Israeli clearing operation into Rafah at the end of the six-week ceasefire.
  • An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported that Palestinian militias resumed launching rockets from Khan Younis shortly after the IDF’s withdrawal on April 7.
  • Several Israeli brigades were involved in clearing operations in Khan Younis throughout February and March, likely reducing the ability of Palestinian fighters to launch rockets from the southern Gaza Strip.
  • Lebanon: The IDF Air Force killed a senior official and commander in Hezbollah’s Radwan unit and two other Hezbollah fighters in an airstrike in southern Lebanon on April 8.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it conducted three drone attacks targeting Israeli military bases since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 7. Israeli officials and media have not commented on the claimed attacks at the time of this writing. CTP-ISW cannot verify the Islamic Resistance in Iraq’s attack claims.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian sources reported that Israeli forces are still present in the Central Gaza Strip and in southern Gaza City on April 8. The IDF withdrew all its forces in the southern Gaza Strip on April 7, but the IDF Nahal Brigade remains at the seam of the northern and central Gaza Strip to secure Israeli-built highway Route 749 and other Israeli military sites in the area, which the IDF has dubbed the Netzarim corridor.[42] The Nahal Brigade’s presence on the road also prevents Palestinian civilians from returning to the northern Gaza Strip from the south. Palestinian sources claimed that Israeli bulldozers operated in eastern Deir al Balah and Maghazi camps area as part of the IDF’s effort to establish a buffer zone between the Gaza Strip and Israel.[43] Local sources also reported Palestinian fighters clashed with Israeli forces near al Kuwait Roundabout in southern Gaza City and near Juhor ad Dik, southeast of Gaza City.[44] Palestinian reports of Israeli activity in the northern and central Gaza Strip are consistent with the Nahal Brigade’s limited operations in the central Gaza Strip and the IDF’s transition to a model focused on targeted raids throughout the entire Gaza Strip.

Hamas was the only Palestinian militia to claim an attack targeting Israeli forces operating in the Gaza Strip on April 8. Hamas said that its fighters mortared the IDF Nahal Brigade headquarters along the “Netzarim Axis,” referring the Israeli-built highway Route 749, which bisects the northern and southern Gaza Strip.[45] The low number of attack claims is likely due to the IDF withdrawal from the southern Gaza Strip and a lack of target availability. Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters targeted Israeli forces in Sheikh Ijlin, southern Gaza City on April 7.[46]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on April 8 that “there is a date” for an IDF clearing operation into Rafah to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions there.[47] The IDF chief of staff similarly said on April 7 as the IDF withdrew most of its forces from the Gaza Strip that ”the war in Gaza continues, and we are far from stopping.“[48] Israeli officials and media sources framed the April 7 withdrawals as part of the IDF’s preparations for conducting a clearing operation into Rafah.[49] Far-right politician and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said on April 8—in reference to the IDF‘s withdrawal from the southern Gaza Strip—that if Netanyahu decided to ”end the war without an extensive attack on Rafah—he will not have a mandate to continue serving as Prime Minister.[50]

Palestinian fighters fired at least two rocket barrages from the Gaza Strip targeting southern Israel on April 8.[51] The al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed militant wing of Fatah, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which is a leftist Palestinian militia aligned with Hamas in the war, targeted an Israeli military site near the northern Gaza Strip with a combined rocket barrage.[52] Israeli Army Radio reported unspecified Palestinian fighters fired one rocket targeting a town that hosts an Israeli military base in southern Israel.[53]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least five locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 7.[54] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired small arms and detonated improvised explosive devices targeting Israeli forces during Israeli operations in Tulkarm and the Balata refugee camp in Nablus.[55] PIJ fighters also fired small arms targeting Israeli civilians across the West Bank-Israel border in the Meirav settlement.[56]

Israeli forces detained 11 wanted individuals across the West Bank during overnight raids on April 8.[57]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Iranian-backed fighters, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 7.[58]

The IDF Air Force killed a senior official and commander in Hezbollah’s Radwan unit and two other Hezbollah fighters in an airstrike in southern Lebanon on April 8.[59] The IDF said that the commander, Ali Ahmed Hussein, was a “veteran and senior official” for the group and held a rank equivalent to a brigade commander.[60] The IDF added that Hussein was responsible for planning and executing attacks targeting Israeli forces in Ramim in northern Israel.[61] Hezbollah acknowledged Hussein’s death on April 8.[62]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Jordanian Army killed two drug smugglers along the Jordanian-Syrian border on April 8.[63] Saudi media reported that Jordanian officials said that Lebanese Hezbollah and other unspecified Iran-backed militias are responsible for the increase in drug and weapons smuggling from Syria into Jordan.[64]

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it conducted three drone attacks targeting Israeli military bases since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 7.[65] The group claimed that it targeted the “Western Yarden” base in the Golan Heights, the “Elifalet” base near Safed north of the Sea of Galilee, and the “Southern Yohantan” base in the southern Golan Heights.[66] Israeli officials and media have not commented on the claimed attacks at the time of this writing. CTP-ISW cannot verify the Islamic Resistance in Iraq’s attack claims.

US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani to discuss Sudani’s upcoming visit to Washington, DC, on April 15.[67] Iraqi officials previously stated that Sudani’s visit to Washington will focus on the status of the US-led international coalition in Iraq and the “transition to a comprehensive partnership between Iraq and the United States.”[68] Washington and Baghdad began talks to evaluate the status of the US-led international coalition in Iraq in late January 2024. [69]

Iranian security forces arrested a “main member” of the Baloch militant group Ansar al Furqan in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province, on April 6.[70] The Sistan and Baluchistan Province police chief said that the Ansar al Furqan militant previously participated in attacks targeting Law Enforcement Command (LEC) and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) headquarters in Iran.[71] A group of "terrorists” separately killed two police officers in Zahedan on April 6.[72] These incidents are part of a rise in anti-regime militancy in southeastern Iran and reflect the increasingly precarious state of the Iranian internal security environment. The Baloch Salafi-jihadi militant group Jaish al Adl most recently conducted unprecedentedly complex and sophisticated attacks targeting Iranian security forces in southeastern Iran on April 4, killing at least 11 Iranian security personnel.[73]

Iranian police claimed that they arrested three Islamic State operatives in Karaj, Tehran on April 6.[74] Iranian state media claimed that trio was planning to conduct a suicide bombing at the end of Ramadan.[75]

Afghan media reported that the three individuals are members of the anti-Taliban opposition group the Afghanistan National Resistance Front (NRF) and previously fought against the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan.[76] The NRF does not target civilians and does not use suicide bombings as part of its operations against the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Pro-Taliban social media users used Iran’s arrest to advance an information operation that claims that the National Resistance Front and Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) cooperate to conduct terror attacks.[77] The NRF wants to restore the former Islamic Republic of Afghanistan while ISKP is a Salafi-jihadist group that wants to implement Sharia law in central and south Asia as part of a global caliphate. The two groups’ worldviews and ideologies are diametrically opposed to each other.

Iran Update, April 7, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Andie Parry, Peter Mills, Annika Ganzeveld, Amin Soltani, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Israel withdrew most of its forces from the Gaza Strip on April 7. Israeli officials and media sources have framed the withdrawals as part of their preparations for conducting a clearing operation into Rafah. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced on April 7 that Israeli “forces came out” of the Gaza Strip “and are preparing for future missions” into Rafah.[1] Israeli military correspondents similarly interpreted the withdrawal as part of an IDF effort to reconstitute ahead of advancing into Rafah.[2] Israeli media close to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) clarified that the IDF 98th Division withdrew from the southern Gaza Strip on April 7.[3] Israeli brigades and units operating under the command of the 98th Division were previously the only Israeli forces remaining in the southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources posted images of areas in which the 98th Division recently operated, suggesting that Israeli forces had withdrawn from those areas.[4]

Hamas and other Palestinian militias will likely try to exploit the Israeli withdrawal to reconstitute militarily and reassert Hamas' governing authority around Khan Younis. Israeli officials and media sources have framed the withdrawals as part of their transition toward a raid-based model around Khan Younis—similar to what the IDF has done in the northern Gaza Strip since December 2023.[5] Israeli military correspondents asserted that the IDF has destroyed Hamas’ Khan Younis Brigade and will accordingly transition to conducting raids to target the remaining militia forces and infrastructure there.[6] Hamas conducted a multi-stage attack that killed four Israeli soldiers in Khan Younis on April 6, however, demonstrating that Hamas retains some combat effectiveness there.[7] CTP-ISW has reported extensively on how Hamas and other Palestinian militias have exploited the withdrawal of Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip to infiltrate and rebuild their networks there.[8] The IDF has redeployed to several areas in the northern Gaza Strip in recent months to re-clear those areas of Palestinian fighters and militia infrastructure.[9] Hamas and the other Palestinian militias will likely see an opportunity to pursue similar effects around Khan Younis following the Israeli withdrawal there.

Unspecified Israeli sources claimed that the IDF withdrawal from the southern Gaza Strip will enable displaced Palestinians in Rafah to migrate to parts of Khan Younis and the central Gaza Strip.[10] The migration of Palestinians from Rafah to other parts of the Gaza Strip would facilitate an Israeli clearing operation into Rafah, according to Israeli military correspondents.[11] Israel and aid organizations have not yet constructed encampments in the southern and central Gaza Strip to which Gazans could migrate. Israeli media indicated that the construction of such encampments was part of the IDF humanitarian plan.[12]

The withdrawal of the IDF 98th Division means that the Nahal Brigade is the only remaining Israeli unit in the Gaza Strip.[13] The Nahal Brigade operates around the border of the central and northern Strip to secure Israeli-built highway Route 749, which bisects the northern and southern Gaza Strip and three nearby forward operating bases for future raids and operations in the Gaza Strip.[14] The role of the Nahal Brigade in securing the divide between the central and northern Gaza Strip is consistent with the IDF’s full transition to a raid-based model. Israeli military correspondents have reported that the IDF uses the road to quickly launch raids into the Gaza Strip, such as the al Shifa Hospital operation that the IDF chief of staff called a “great achievement” for leading to the capture and death of many senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighters on March 30.[15]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: Israel withdrew most of its forces from the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials and media sources have framed the withdrawals as part of their preparations for conducting a clearing operation into Rafah. Hamas and other Palestinian militias will likely try to exploit the Israeli withdrawal to reconstitute militarily and reassert Hamas governing authority around Khan Younis.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed that it conducted a drone attack targeting an unspecified “vital target” in Eilat, Israel.
  • Yemen: The Houthis claimed that they conducted five drone and missile attacks targeting civilian and military vessels over the previous 72 hours.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The IDF 89th Commando Forces (98th Division) cleared al Amal neighborhood, western Khan Younis, before withdrawing on April 7. The 89th Commando forces located over 100 militia sites during operations in al Amal.[16] Israeli forces detonated and destroyed a 900-meter tunnel equipped with living rooms and weapons stores.[17] The IDF conducted raids to seize weapons and kill Palestinian fighters, including a Hamas squad commander.[18]

Palestinian fighters conducted two indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on April 7. PIJ targeted towns in southern Israel with a five-rocket barrage shortly after all Israeli forces withdrew from the southern Gaza Strip.[19] An Israeli military correspondent said that the Iron Dome intercepted all the rockets.[20] The Palestinian Mujahideen Movement separately targeted the IDF Gaza Division headquarters in Reim, southern Israel.[21]

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine mortared Israeli armor near the Israel-Gaza Strip border northeast of Qarara on April 7.[22] Palestinian militias did not claim additional attacks targeting Israeli forces on April 7, likely due to the IDF withdrawal from the southern Gaza Strip and a lack of target availability.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 6.[23]

A Palestinian fighter fired upon an Israeli bus and wounded two individuals, including an IDF soldier, near Nabi Elias on April 7.[24]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 6.[25]

The IDF conducted airstrikes targeting Hezbollah air defense systems in Baalbek, Lebanon, after Hezbollah intercepted an IDF drone over southern Lebanon on April 6.[26]

Iran and the Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it conducted a drone attack targeting an unspecified “vital target” in Eilat, Israel, on April 6.[27] Israel media reported on April 7 that “hostile aircraft intrusion sirens” went off in Eilat.[28] The IDF later announced that these sirens were a “false alarm.”[29]

The Houthis claimed on April 7 that they conducted five drone and missile attacks targeting civilian and military vessels over the previous 72 hours.[30] The Houthis claimed that they conducted anti-ship missile attacks targeting a Marshall Islands-flagged “British ship” in the Red Sea and two Panamanian-flagged “Israeli ships” in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.[31]

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) reported that international coalition forces intercepted a missile and that a second missile fell into the water near a vessel approximately 60 nautical miles southwest of Hudaydah, Yemen, on April 6.[32] US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that a coalition vessel engaged and destroyed an anti-ship missile on April 6.[33] UKMTO separately reported that a missile impacted the water near a vessel approximately 59 nautical miles southwest of Aden, Yemen, on April 6.[34]

The Houthis also claimed that they conducted two drone attacks targeting unspecified US “military frigates” in the Red Sea.[35] CENTCOM announced that it intercepted a Houthi drone over the Red Sea on April 6.[36]

US Central Command (CENTCOM) destroyed a mobile, surface-to-air missile in Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen on April 6.[37]


Iran Update, April 6, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

CTP-ISW will publish abbreviated updates on April 6 and 7, 2024. Detailed coverage will resume Monday, April 8, 2024.

Key Takeaways:

  • Central Gaza Strip: Palestinian fighters have claimed several attacks targeting Israeli forces near Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip in recent days.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Hamas claimed to conduct a multi-stage attack targeting Israeli forces in eastern Khan Younis.
  • Political Negotiations: A senior US official said that US President Joe Biden sent letters to the Egyptian president and Qatari emir, asking them to pressure Hamas to agree to a six-week ceasefire agreement.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least five locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed two drone attacks targeting an unspecified military facility in the Golan Heights and an oil refinery in Haifa, Israel.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian fighters have claimed several attacks targeting Israeli forces near Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip in recent days.[1] Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) claimed on April 6 that its forces returned from the front lines east of Deir al Balah and reported attacking an Israeli tank with an explosively formed penetrator.[2] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed militant wing of Fatah, separately mortared Israeli forces near Deir al Balah.[3] Commercially available satellite imagery captured on April 5 shows flattened terrain southeast of Deir al Balah, indicating that Israeli bulldozers and/or bulldozers are operating in the area.

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in al Amal neighborhood in western Khan Younis on April 6.[4] The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Givati Brigade (162nd Division) destroyed a weapons depot and found over 40 improvised explosive devices and other explosives in al Amal.[5] Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in close combat and destroyed a four-man Palestinian squad in one attack.[6]

Hamas claimed that it conducted three attacks targeting Israeli forces in al Amal after Hamas fighters returned from the front lines.[7] Hamas fighters fired anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), tandem-charge anti-tank rockets, and detonated a mine targeting Israeli forces.

Hamas claimed to conduct a multi-stage attack targeting Israeli forces in eastern Khan Younis on April 6.[8] Hamas fighters targeted three IDF tanks with anti-tank RPGs in al Zana. Hamas fighters then claimed that they prevented an Israeli quick reaction force from responding to the situation by detonating a minefield that they set prior to the attack. Hamas later claimed that its fighters targeted Israeli forces that responded to the attack.[9] The IDF has not commented on the attack at the time of this writing.

The IDF Air Force killed a senior official in Hamas’ internal security apparatus in Khan Younis, who was also responsible for managing some militia activity.[10] The IDF said that the figure was the deputy head of internal security and responsible for significant attacks against Israel targets. Hamas controls several internal security forces, including the Civil Police.[11]

The IDF reported on April 6 that Israeli forces rescued the body of a hostage during an overnight operation in Khan Younis.[12] The Israeli Army Radio reported that that PIJ killed the hostage, named Elad Katzir, in January 2024.[13] The IDF 89th Commando Brigade (98th Division), with support from Shin Bet and Military Intelligence, returned the body to Israel. Israeli authorities say that Palestinian militias still hold around 133 hostages and that 99 of them are believed to still be alive.[14]

A CNN team in Israel reported on April 6 hearing gunfire and explosions near the Erez crossing connecting Israel with the northern Gaza Strip.[15] These reports come immediately after Israel decided to reopen the crossing, which has been closed since the war began, to facilitate humanitarian aid.[16] The IDF moved the CNN team to another unspecified location after hearing the gunfire and explosions. The Israeli War Cabinet approved on April 5 the reopening of its Erez crossing, which has been closed since the beginning of the war.[17]

A senior US official said that US President Joe Biden sent letters to the Egyptian president and Qatari emir on April 4, asking them to pressure Hamas to agree to a six-week ceasefire agreement.[18] Biden ”urged them to secure commitments from Hamas to agree to and abide by a deal," the US official said. Israeli media reported that a senior Hamas delegation led by Ismail Haniyeh is expected to travel to Cairo on April 7 for further negotiations.[19] Senior Hamas sources said that the group still insists on a full ceasefire before they release any hostages.[20]

US, Israeli, and Egyptian officials told the Wall Street Journal that the Biden administration is pressing Israel to allow a limited number of displaced Palestinians to return to the northern Gaza Strip as part of the current round of ceasefire talks.[21] Unspecified Arab mediators stated that     Israel is open to permitting 2,000 people per day—mainly women and children—to return to the northern Gaza Strip. Israel would reportedly allow a maximum of 60,000 Palestinians to return to the northern Gaza Strip as part of the deal, representing an Israeli concession.[22] Israel sent an “updated” ceasefire proposal to the mediators and Hamas on April 2, which Hamas later rejected.[23]

Palestinian fighters did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on April 6.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least five locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 5.[24]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel on April 6.[25]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed two drone attacks targeting an unspecified military facility in the Golan Heights and an oil refinery in Haifa on April 5.[26] 



Click here to read the full report with maps

Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Alexandra Braverman, Johanna Moore, Ashka Jhaveri, Kathryn Tyson, Tor Lansing, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Some clerics close to the Office of the Supreme Leader suggested that Tehran will calibrate its response to Israel killing senior IRGC commanders in Syria in order to avoid a direct war with Israel.1] Several Friday prayer leaders endorsed ”strategic patience”—a long-standing regime policy that involves not conducting a full response to Israeli attacks immediately—in their weekly sermon on April 5.[2] The Office of the Supreme Leader issues guidance to Friday prayer leaders for the content of their sermons, which suggests that their promotions of strategic patience are part of a broader messaging effort from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.[3] Khamenei previously ordered his military commanders to exercise strategic patience following an Israeli airstrike that killed senior IRGC Quds Force officer Brig. Gen. Razi Mousavi in Syria in December 2023, according to The New York Times.[4] The public endorsements of a calibrated retaliation on April 5 are consistent with recent Western reporting.[5] Two unspecified Iranian officials told Reuters on April 4 that the immediate Iranian response would be “limited and aimed at deterrence.”[6] Such reports support CTP-ISW's assessment that Iran seeks to avoid a direct military confrontation against the United States and Israel.[7]

Tehran is also signaling that it wants to avoid involving the United States in its retaliation against Israel. An official in Raisi’s Presidential office claimed that Iran has warned the United States to “step aside, so you don’t get hit,” suggesting that Iran seeks to retaliate against Israeli targets.[8] Western media has similarly suggested that Iran will target Israel directly, moreover. An unnamed US, Israeli, and other unspecified Western officials told the Washington Post that they expected Iran to retaliate with drones or missile attacks on Israeli targets that would be ”calibrated to avoid an even bigger response from Israel.”[9] CBS separately reported that US intelligence indicates that Iran’s response will include ”a swarm of Shahed loitering drones and cruise missiles,” likely before the end of Ramadan on April 10.[10] Israel has reportedly evacuated several of its diplomatic facilities around the region in anticipation of a possible Iranian retaliation, although the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry has denied such reports.[11]

Kataib Seyyed al Shuhada (KSS) Secretary General Abu Alaa al Walai threatened on April 5 to increase attacks targeting Israel if the IDF conducts a clearing operation into Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.[12] Walai’s statement suggests that KSS may be at least one of the Iranian-backed Iraqi militias that has conducted attacks into Israel in recent weeks. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has conducted regular attacks into Israel since pausing its near-daily attacks on US forces in February 2024. Walai also called for Arab and Islamic countries to sever all diplomatic ties with Israel and stop all normalization efforts.

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Iranian officials have signaled that they want to avoid involving the United States in their retaliation against Israel for killing senior IRGC commanders in Syria.
  • Iraq: An Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader threatened to increase attacks into Israel if the IDF conducted a clearing operation into Rafah.
  • Gaza Strip: Israeli leaders approved a series of measures to increase the volume of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM conducted a preemptive strike targeting a Houthi-operated, anti-ship missile in Yemen.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations around Khan Younis on April 5.[13] The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 7th Brigade (36th Division), which has been operating in eastern Khan Younis, directed artillery to destroy a house that Palestinian fighters had rigged to explode.[14] The IDF Air Force similarly destroyed over 30 explosively rigged buildings across the Gaza Strip in support of Israeli infantry operations.[15] These reports are consistent with the fact that Hamas and other Palestinian militias have claimed house-borne IED attacks throughout the war.[16] The IDF Givati Brigade located grenades and IEDs while re-clearing al Amal neighborhood in western Khan Younis.[17]

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) reported that it mortared Israeli forces in central Khan Younis.[18] The group claimed that the attack supported the al Qassem Brigades, which is Hamas’ military wing, in some unspecified fashion. PIJ has been aligned with Hamas throughout the war.

Israel approved on April 5 a series of measures to increase the humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip. The Israeli War Cabinet approved the reopening of its Erez crossing with the northern Gaza Strip, which has been closed since the beginning of the war.[19] The Israeli War Cabinet separately approved the use of the Port of Ashdod in Israel to facilitate the movement of aid into the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials told CNN that the crossing and port would open on April 7.[20]

Israel released on April 5 its internal inquiry into the IDF strikes that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in the central Gaza Strip.[21] The investigation found that the strike on three vehicles was conducted in “serious violation” of its rules and operating procedures. Israel dismissed several officers who bore responsibility for the attack. The World Central Kitchen called on April 4 for the creation of an independent commission to investigate the killings of its staff.[22] US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated he is reviewing the report and that the United States will discuss its conclusions “in the days to come.”[23]

Axios reported on April 5, citing unspecified sources, that the US, Israeli, and Egyptian intelligence chiefs and Qatari prime minister will meet in Cairo in the coming days in an effort to secure the release of Hamas-held hostages in the Gaza Strip.[24] The meeting follows US President Joe Biden urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call on April 4 "to empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay to bring the hostages home." Israel and Hamas have been negotiating a proposal that includes a six-week ceasefire and the release of 40 hostages in return for approximately 700 Palestinian prisoners. A senior Hamas official said on April 4 that the latest round of negotiations in Cairo did not yield progress.[25] CNN reported on April 5, citing an unspecified diplomatic official, that Hamas believes “that Israeli proposal includes nothing new, so they see no need to change their proposal.”[26] The Israeli proposal did not accept Hamas's demands for the unrestricted return of Gazans to the northern Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of Israeli forces.[27]

The Israeli Justice Ministry is investigating a cyberattack claimed by the group, “Anonymous for Justice,” that breached its servers.[28] The group claimed on April 4 that it had taken over 300 gigabytes of data and that it would continue attacking Israel until the war ends.[29]

Palestinian fighters have conducted at least three indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 4.[30] PIJ fired rockets targeting Ashkelon, Sderot, and Nir Aam in southern Israel on April 4, meaning that Palestinian militias conducted six total that day.[31]

The IDF reported on April 5 that its 215th Artillery Brigade attacked the launch sites from which Palestinian fighters launched rockets into southern Israel [32] The IDF Air Force also struck targets in the area, including rocket launchers and a tunnel shaft. Palestinian militias have launched most of their indirect fire attacks into Israel from the northern and central Gaza Strip since January 2024. [33]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut-off on April 4.[35] The IDF said that it conducted raids in six locations and detained thirteen wanted Palestinians across the West Bank.[36] The IDF reported that Palestinian fighters threw an IED at Israeli forces in Tulkarm.[37] PIJ and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades engaged Israeli forces in the Nour Shams refugee camp in Tulkarm.[38] Israeli forces also encountered armed Palestinian fighters in Fahma, southwest of Jenin, where the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed an attack.[39] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades also claimed an attack in Kafr Rai, which neighbors Fahma.[40]

Unspecified actors shot from Jordan at an IDF vehicle near the Israel-Jordan border on April 5.[41] The IDF said that the suspects did not cross the border fence and that there were no Israeli casualties.

PIJ military spokesperson for the West Bank Abu Ahmed published a statement to celebrate Quds Day on April 5.[42] Ahmed said that PIJ fighters in the West Bank are “preparing” for an unspecified event and that Israeli forces are not expecting “what awaits” them.[43] Ahmed also affirmed PIJ’s support for the Axis of Resistance leadership in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.[44]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 4.[45]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

US CENTCOM conducted a preemptive strike targeting an anti-ship missile in Houthi-controlled Yemen on April 4.[46] CENTCOM reported that the missile presented an imminent threat to US Navy, coalition, and merchant ships in the region.

Senior Iranian and Axis of Resistance leaders gave speeches for their annual, anti-Israel Quds Day celebration on April 5.[47] Quds Day is an Iranian-established celebration that occurs on the last Friday of Ramadan.[48] Senior Iranian military and political leaders repeated their standard anti-Israel rhetoric and boasted that Israel has failed to achieve its objectives in the Israel-Hamas war.[49] Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Secretary General Ziad al Nakhalah and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Chief of Staff Abdul Aziz al Mohammadawi visited Tehran for the holiday commemorations.[50] Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General separately gave a televised speech for the holiday and affirmed that Iran will retaliate against Israel for killing senior IRGC officers in Syria on April 1.[51]

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will reportedly meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif in Islamabad in the near future, likely to discuss the recent Jaish al Adl attack in Iran.[52] A Jaish al Adl—a Baloch, Salafi-jihadi militia—conducted unprecedentedly complex and sophisticated attacks targeting Iranian security forces in multiple locations in southeastern Iran on April 4.[53] At least 11 Iranian security personnel and 18 Jaish al Adl militants died during the attacks, which lasted over 13 hours.[54] CTP-ISW previously assessed that the attacks risked straining the Iranian relationship with Pakistan, which Iran has long accused of harboring Jaish al Adl militants.[55]

The Iranian rial depreciated to a record low of 640,000 to one US dollar on April 4.[56]

 


Iran Update, April 4, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps 

Iran Update, April 4, 2024

Annika Ganzeveld, Peter Mills, Andie Parry, Johanna Moore, Kathryn Tyson, Alexandra Braverman, Rachel Friedman, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. Click here to see CTP and ISW’s interactive map of Israeli ground operations. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

CTP-ISW defines the “Axis of Resistance” as the unconventional alliance that Iran has cultivated in the Middle East since the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979. This transnational coalition is comprised of state, semi-state, and non-state actors that cooperate with one another to secure their collective interests. Tehran considers itself to be both part of the alliance and its leader. Iran furnishes these groups with varying levels of financial, military, and political support in exchange for some degree of influence or control over their actions. Some are traditional proxies that are highly responsive to Iranian direction, while others are partners over which Iran exerts more limited influence. Members of the Axis of Resistance are united by their grand strategic objectives, which include eroding and eventually expelling American influence from the Middle East, destroying the Israeli state, or both. Pursuing these objectives and supporting the Axis of Resistance to those ends have become cornerstones of Iranian regional strategy.

We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Jaish al Adl, which is a Baloch, Salafi-jihadi militia, conducted unprecedentedly complex and sophisticated attacks targeting Iranian security forces in southeastern Iran on April 4.[1] Jaish al Adl conducted coordinated and simultaneous attacks targeting at least two Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) headquarters, a police station, and a naval facility in Chabahar and Rask in Iran’s Sistan and Balochistan Province.[2] Jaish al Adl claimed that it conducted attacks targeting six locations total across Sistan and Balochistan Province, although CTP-ISW cannot verify every attack.[3] At least 11 Iranian security personnel and 18 Jaish al Adl militants died during the attacks, which began around midnight on April 4 and lasted over 13 hours.[4]

IRGC-affiliated media reported that Jaish al Adl militants opened fire at the IRGC headquarters in Rask from the top of a nearby hospital, while other militants assaulted the headquarters with explosives.[5] Iranian military officials and state media also reported that the militants wore suicide vests, which could have been the explosives used in the attack.[6] Iranian state media claimed that the Jaish al Adl militants failed to breach the headquarters.[7] Jaish al Adl contrastingly claimed that it captured munitions warehouses within the IRGC headquarters and published videos showing Jaish al Adl fighters seizing unspecified military equipment at the warehouse.[8]

Jaish al Adl separately announced that it targeted Police Station 11 in Chabahar because the former police chief raped a young Baloch girl at this station in September 2022.[9] This incident fueled public outrage and large-scale protests in the nearby city of Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province, in late September 2022. Iranian security forces violently suppressed the protests in Zahedan in an event that became known as “Bloody Friday.”[10] Jaish al Adl vowed in early October 2022 that it would retaliate against the Iranian regime for killing protesters and “enter the field with all its power.”[11] Jaish al Adl referencing the rape of the young Baloch girl in Chabahar is likely part of an effort to cultivate support among the local population.

Jaish al Adl separately cited Iranian cooperation with China, India, and Russia as a reason for its April 4 attacks.[12] The group specified that it seeks to disrupt the development of the Makran coast, a coastal strip that extends between southeastern Iran and southwestern Pakistan. Other Baloch militant groups, such as the Baloch Liberation Army, have previously targeted Chinese development projects in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province.[13]

The Jaish al Adl attacks demonstrate the group’s growing organization and ability to use relatively advanced tactics inside Iranian territory. Jaish al Adl claimed that it coordinated 168 fighters from two different battalions and an “intelligence and security unit” to conduct the attack.[14] Those same two Jaish al Adl battalions previously cooperated to raid an Iranian police station in Rask in December 2023.[15] One of the Jaish al Adl battalions involved in the April 4 attack separately organized a rare, battalion-sized training exercise in October 2022.[16] Most Jaish al Adl attacks involve targeted killings, IED attacks, and raids targeting Iranian security forces’ outposts.[17] A Jaish al Adl attack targeting a Zahedan police station in July 2023, for instance, used only four fighters equipped with suicide vests.[18]

The Jaish al Adl attacks risk straining the Iranian relationship with Pakistan, which Iran accuses of harboring Jaish al Adl militants.[19] Tehran has frequently called on the Pakistani government to crack down on Jaish al Adl and to secure its border with Iran.[20] The IRGC previously conducted drone and missile strikes targeting two Jaish al Adl “headquarters” in southwestern Pakistan in January 2024 in retaliation for an earlier Jaish al Adl attack on a police station.[21] The Pakistani armed forces responded to the IRGC strikes by conducting their own cross-border attacks targeting anti-Pakistan Baloch separatists in southeastern Iran.[22] Iranian and Pakistani officials quickly sought to deescalate tensions following the exchange of strikes, but the fundamental tension points remain.[23] The Pakistani Foreign Affairs Ministry condemned the April 4 Jaish al Adl attacks, possibly to try to preemptively address the risk of rising tensions with Iran.[24]

The Jaish al Adl attacks highlight the increasingly precarious state of the Iranian internal security environment. There has been a significant uptick in anti-regime militancy and terrorist activity throughout Iran in recent years. Jaish al Adl has conducted several significant attacks in this period, possibly because it has exploited the Bloody Friday incident to drive recruitment and support for itself.[25] The Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State, known as Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), has similarly conducted several major attacks inside Iran, including two attacks on a holy shrine in Shiraz in October 2022 and August 2023 and another attack on a funeral ceremony for Qassem Soleimani in January 2024.[26] These security challenges compound with the fact that there have been several major, anti-regime protest waves in Iran in recent years, imposing increased strain on the Iranian internal security apparatus, as it tries to violently impose social control.

Two unspecified Iranian officials told Reuters that Iran will respond seriously to Israel killing IRGC Quds Force Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi in Syria but that the retaliation would also be “limited and aimed at deterrence.”[27] The officials also indicated that Iran would continue trying to avoid a direct confrontation with Israel and the United States whilst continuing to support Iranian-backed attacks across the Middle East.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) military spokesperson “Abu Hamza” expressed support on April 4 for the anti-Israel protest movement in Jordan.[28] Thousands of Jordanians have demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman since March 24 to demand that the Jordanian government cut diplomatic ties with Israel, withdraw from the 1994 peace treaty, and cut off the trade route between the Persian Gulf and Israel that cuts through Jordanian territory.[29] Abu Hamza said that PIJ is following the protest movement closely and that the Jordanians’ voice ”is beginning to spread.”[30] The leaders of PIJ and Hamas previously praised the Jordanian protest movement on March 29.[31]

The Palestinian militias’ support for the Jordanian protests comes as Iran and its so-called ”Axis of Resistance” have similarly expressed a desire to disrupt the ”land bridge” connecting Israel to the Persian Gulf.[32] CTP-ISW previously assessed that Iran and its Axis of Resistance may be shifting to a more confrontational strategy vis-a-vis Jordan as part of their effort to expand their capabilities and networks in the West Bank.[33]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Jaish al Adl, which is a Baloch, Salafi-jihadi militia, conducted unprecedentedly complex and sophisticated attacks targeting Iranian security forces in southeastern Iran.
  • Jordan: PIJ military spokesperson “Abu Hamza” expressed support on April 4 for the anti-Israel protest movement in Jordan.
  • Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations throughout the Gaza Strip. Hamas rejected the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal.
  • West Bank: The Shin Bet announced that it had detained and indicted eleven individuals, who had planned attacks against high-value targets in Israel.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has claimed two drone attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets.
  • Yemen: A senior US military official stated that the Houthis may be running low on their stockpiles of drones and anti-ship ballistic missiles due to persistent US airstrikes.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 7643rd Gefen Brigade (Gaza Division) and Netzah Yehuda Battalion (900th Kfir Brigade, 99th Reserve Division) continued to conduct clearing operations in Beit Hanoun on April 4.[34] The IDF reported that Israeli forces killed a Hamas company commander for the Beit Hanoun area during clashes with Hamas fighters. CTP-ISW assessed on March 25 that a small number of Palestinian fighters have likely infiltrated Beit Hanoun.[35]

Palestinian militias have continued to conduct attacks targeting Israeli forces in Gaza City since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 3. Hamas mortared Israeli forces in Tuffah in eastern Gaza City on April 3.[36] PIJ and the National Resistance Brigades conducted a combined mortar attack on April 4 targeting Israeli forces west of Gaza City in Sheikh Ijlin.[37] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah, also fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at an Israeli bulldozer west of Gaza City on April 4.[38]  

Israeli forces continued to engage Palestinian fighters in the central Gaza Strip on April 4. The IDF Nahal Brigade identified a group of nearby Palestinian fighters and directed an airstrike killing the fighters.[39] Hamas fighters fired an RPG at an Israeli Merkava tank east of Deir al Balah.[40]

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in Khan Younis on April 4. The 89th Commando Brigade (98th Division) killed Palestinian fighters and seized weapons in al Amal.[41] PIJ fighters mortared Israeli forces near al Amal Hospital and al Arishya neighborhood.[42] The IDF 7th Brigade (36th Division) continued to conduct clearing operations in eastern Khan Younis.[43] PIJ targeted Israeli forces operating in a building in an unspecified area of Khan Younis with an anti-bunker bomb.[44] PIJ also targeted an Israeli tank in the same location with a mine.[45]

The IDF said on April 4 that its independent investigative body completed an inquiry into the IDF strikes that mistakenly killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in the central Gaza Strip.[46] The General Staff Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism, which is ”an independent military body responsible for investigating unusual incidents amid the war,“ investigated the incident "thoroughly" and briefed the IDF chief of staff on its findings. The report will be released to the public in the coming days after the key stakeholders, including the World Central Kitchen and embassy personnel, review the findings. Israeli Army Radio reported on April 3 that the IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) was responsible for directing the airstrikes that killed the aid workers.[47]

US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a call to discuss the Gaza Strip on April 4.[48] Biden called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip ”to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians.” Biden said that the Israeli strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip are ”unacceptable.” Biden added that US policy on the Gaza Strip depends on Israel’s immediate actions to ”implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers,” but that the United States will ”strongly support” Israel in the face of ”public Iranian threats against Israel.”

NBC reported new details of a virtual meeting between senior US and Israeli officials to discuss a possible Israeli clearing operation into Rafah. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met virtually with Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Israeli Minster for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer on April 1.[49] Several unspecified US officials familiar with the meeting said that the plan that Israel presented to move 1.4 million civilians from Rafah to tents north of the city “did not include plans for addressing sanitation needs or an assessment of how much food or water would be required or where it would come from.”[50] The sources also reported that Israel has only considered sourcing “a fraction of the hundreds of thousands” of temporary shelters that will be needed under the plan.[51] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu purchased 40,000 tents to house displaced Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in preparation for Israel’s clearing operation into Rafah, according to Israeli media on March 28.[52]

Hamas rejected Israel’s latest ceasefire proposal on April 3. Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said on April 4 that Hamas had resubmitted its March 14 ceasefire proposal to Egyptian and Qatari mediators in response to Israel’s most recent proposal.[53] Hamdan stated that Hamas was “sticking to [its] position” but also claimed that the group had shown great “flexibility” in negotiations.[54] Hamas’ March 14 proposal includes implementing a ceasefire, calls for Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, an increase in the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, a return of displaced Palestinians, and a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.[55] Israel sent an “updated” ceasefire proposal to the mediators and Hamas on April 2.[56] Israel’s updated proposal reportedly allowed for the gradual return of 60,000 displaced Palestinians to the northern Gaza Strip, representing a softening of Israel’s previous position.[57]

Palestinian militias conducted five indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cut-off on April 3.[58] This is the highest number of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip since February 8 and may be in anticipation of Iran’s annual, anti-Israel holiday, Quds Day, on April 5.[59] Israeli air defenses intercepted two rockets fired by PIJ from the Gaza Strip over Netivot on April 4.[60] Palestinian militias have not targeted Netivot since January 16.[61] PIJ also fired mortars and rockets at three towns in southern Israel.[62] The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), a secular leftist Palestinian group fighting alongside Hamas in the war, fired a rocket salvo at Kissufim.[63]

The IDF Air Force struck a PIJ launch site on April 3, shortly after fighters conducted indirect fire attacks into Israel.[64] The Israeli strikes destroyed several rocket launchers and militia infrastructure.[65]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least nine locations since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 3.[66]

The Shin Bet announced on April 4 that it had detained and indicted eleven individuals, who had planned attacks against high-value targets in Israel.[67] The cell included seven Arab Israelis and four Palestinians from the West Bank, who plotted attacks against targets, including the Israeli national security minister, Ben Gurion Airport, and an unspecified government complex in Jerusalem.[68] Four of the individuals in the cell were from Jenin and Tulkarm in the West Bank, where Israeli forces have repeatedly conducted operations targeting Palestinian fighters.[69] The individuals planned to rent land in Rahat, Israel, or in the West Bank to use for military training and weapons manufacturing.[70] At least one member of the cell was in contact with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which offered funding for attacks in Israel.[71] It is unclear when and where Shin Bet detained these individuals.

The indictments come amid several Palestinian attacks targeting Israeli civilians in recent months.[72] Palestinian militias have repeatedly praised these attacks and called for further attacks on Israeli civilians.[73]

Israeli forces detained three individuals on April 4 who had plotted attacks in Jerusalem.[74] The individuals are from east Jerusalem and planned small arms and IED attacks targeting a sports stadium and an unspecified police station. Israeli police and the Shin Bet said that the suspects were ISIS supporters but did not specify further on the nature of the relationship.[75] Israeli media reported that an ISIS affiliate had provided training to two of the suspects.[76]

 

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 3.[77]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—has claimed two drone attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 3. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed a drone attack targeting the IDF Ramat David airbase in northern Israel.[78] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq also claimed a drone attack targeting Ashdod, north of the Gaza Strip.[79] CTP-ISW cannot independently verify these claims.

US CENTCOM reported that it intercepted an anti-ship ballistic missile and two drones launched by the Houthis from Yemen toward the USS Gravely on April 3.[80] US CENTCOM separately reported that it destroyed a Houthi mobile surface-to-air missile system on April 3.[81]

US AFCENT Commander Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich said on April 3 that the Houthis may be running low on their stockpiles of drones and anti-ship ballistic missiles due to persistent US airstrikes degrading Houthi munitions stockpiles.[82] Grynkewich further stated that US airstrikes have reduced the pace of Houthi operations but did not provide further details.

The IDF has taken several defensive measures, including expanding electronic warfare GPS-spoofing, canceling IDF soldier’s weekend leave, and ”strengthening” air defenses, on April 4 in anticipation of a possible Iranian attack on Israel in the coming days.[83] Israeli media reported that the Israeli security establishment is worried about an Iranian missile attack on Israel.[84] The Israeli defense minister held a "multi-front situational assessment" with top military and security officials on April 4.[85] The IDF spokesperson reassured Israeli citizens that there has been no change to the threat level in Israel, that the IDF is well prepared to defend against an attack, and that ”there is no need to buy generators, store food, and withdraw money from ATMs."[86]

The IRGC Navy held a naval parade in the northern Persian Gulf on April 4 as part of Iran’s annual, anti-Israel holiday, Quds Day. Iranian state media framed the parade as meant to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and demonstrate the naval capacity of the Axis of Resistance.[87] IRGC Navy Commander Rear Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri suggested that other members of the Axis of Resistance participated in the parade, although not where and in what capacity.[88] Tangsiri reiterated the regime's intent for this year’s Quds Day on April 5 to be more widely celebrated globally than in previous years.[89]

Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Rear Adm. Ali Akbar Ahmadian met with the Russian National Security Council secretary and Chinese public security minister during the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, on April 4.[90] The Russian secretary and Chinese minister expressed condolences to Iran for the IRGC officials killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria on April 1. Ahmadian thanked his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, for Russia’s support for a UNSC meeting on the strike. Ahmadian and Patrushev discussed Russo-Iranian efforts to combat terrorism and increase bilateral economic cooperation, including the construction of the North-South transit corridor.[91] Chinese Public Safety Minister Wang Ziaohong emphasized the need to strengthen bilateral coordination.

The United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated one entity and 13 associated vessels for facilitating commodity shipments on behalf of Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS) and the Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ministry (MODAFL).[92] These designations are part of broader US efforts to counter illegal Iranian military revenue generation and ability to finance its regional proxy and partner groups.

OFAC sanctioned the following entities:

  • UAE-based Oceanlink Maritime DMCC

OFAC sanctioned the following OceanLink Maritime DMCC-associated vessels:

  • Comoros-flagged Anthea
  • Comoros-flagged Boreas
  • Comoros-flagged Cape Gas
  • Comoros-flagged Glaucus
  • Comoros-flagged Oceanus Gas
  • Comoros-flagged Hebe
  • Comoros-flagged Hectate
  • Antigua and Barbuda-flagged Calypso Gas
  • Antigua and Barbuda-flagged Meraki
  • Belize-flagged Elsa
  • Belize-flagged Baxter
  • Panama-flagged Demeter
  • Cook Islands-flagged Ourea

OFAC updated the sanctions to account for the name change of the following vessel:

  • Saint Light, also known as Stellar Oracle, previously listed as Young Yong

Iran Update, April 3, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Annika Ganzeveld, Alexandra Braverman, Amin Soltani, Ashka Jhaveri, Kathryn Tyson, Johanna Moore, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Several Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have signaled their desire to disrupt the “land bridge” connecting Israel to the Persian Gulf. Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba Secretary General Akram al Kaabi criticized the “land bridge,” which passes through the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, in a speech on April 3.[1] Kataib Hezbollah military spokesperson Hussein Moanes similarly declared on April 1 that the group is prepared to arm Iranian-backed militants in Jordan and “cut off” land routes that reach Israel.[2]

The Iranian-backed Iraqi militias’ desire to disrupt the “land bridge” is likely part of a larger Axis of Resistance effort to economically isolate Israel. These threats come as Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, have repeatedly called for Muslim countries to institute a blockade on Israel.[3] Iranian state media similarly has criticized countries that have allowed Israel to conduct trade through their territory.[4] Iranian state media has further argued that the “land bridge” renders Houthi attacks targeting Israeli-linked vessels in the Red Sea “ineffective.”[5] Israel has increasingly relied on the Israeli-UAE overland trade route to compensate for reduced trade activity at the Port of Eilat due to the Houthis’ anti-shipping campaign.[6] The Houthis have conducted over 40 attacks targeting commercial vessels in the Red Sea since November 2023.[7] Vessel traffic through the Red Sea has declined by approximately 50 percent since January 2024 due to Houthi attacks.[8]

Kaabi separately discussed the West Bank, Israeli settlers, and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba operations in his April 3 speech. Kaabi claimed that Israel is “confused” by the “emerging Palestinian resistance” in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.[9] Kaabi also claimed that Israeli settlers are “returning to their countries of origin” because they feel unsafe in Israel.[10] This claim is consistent with CTP-ISW’s assessment that Iranian leaders seek to stoke economic, political, and security turmoil in Israel to facilitate Israeli citizens’ emigration [11] Kaabi lastly claimed that Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba will “expand” its attacks if the IDF continues operating in the Gaza Strip and reiterated the militia’s commitment to removing US forces from Iraq.[12]

Social media users have alleged that Lebanese Hezbollah’s representative to Iraq, Mohammad Hossein al Kawtharani, traveled to Najaf, Iraq, possibly to coordinate the Axis of Resistance’s response to Israel killing IRGC Brig Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi on April 1.[13] CTP-ISW cannot verify these rumors at this time. Iran and Hezbollah have long relied on Kawtharani to manage and unify the often-fractious Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, especially since the United States killed Qassem Soleimani in 2020. A UK-based, Middle East-focused outlet previously reported in January 2024 that Kawtharani had traveled to Baghdad to “coordinate an escalation in operations” against US forces in Iraq.[14] Kawtharani’s January 2024 visit to Baghdad marked his first trip to Iraq in two years.[15] The US Treasury Department sanctioned Kawtharani in August 2013 for promoting Lebanese Hezbollah’s interests in Iraq, including providing “training, funding, political, and logistical support to Iraqi sectarian armed groups.”[16] The US State Department announced in April 2020 that Kawtharani “facilitates the actions of groups operating outside the control of the Government of Iraq that have violently suppressed protests, attacked foreign diplomatic missions, and engaged in widespread organized criminal activity.”[17]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iraq: Several Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have signaled their desire to disrupt the “land bridge” connecting Israel to the Persian Gulf.
  • Social media users have alleged that Lebanese Hezbollah’s representative to Iraq, Mohammad Hossein al Kawtharani, traveled to Najaf, Iraq, possibly to coordinate the Axis of Resistance’s response to Israel killing IRGC Brig Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi on April 1
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias continued to conduct attacks targeting Israeli forces around Gaza City.
  • Central Gaza Strip: Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters around Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip in recent days, suggesting that Israeli forces are advancing into the area.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in western and northern Khan Younis.
  • Political Negotiations: The Qatari prime minister said that the main point of dispute in Israel-Hamas ceasefire negotiations is over the return of displaced people to different parts of the Gaza Strip.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces conducted raids in the West Bank and engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Syria: The Russian Defense Ministry announced that Russian forces have deployed to a new observation post along Syria-Golan Heights border.
  • Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech emphasizing Syria’s role in Iran’s Axis of Resistance.
  • Iran: Iranian leaders are continuing to hold Israel and the United States responsible for the April 1 airstrike targeting Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officials in Syria and vowing to exact revenge.
  • Yemen: US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking said that the United States is trying to negotiate a diplomatic solution to stop Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian militias continued to conduct attacks targeting Israeli forces around Gaza City on April 3. Hamas fired mortars targeting Israeli forces in Tuffah, northeast of Gaza City.[18] Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah, separately conducted a combined mortar attack targeting Israeli forces south of Gaza City.[19]

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters around Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip in recent days, suggesting that Israeli forces are advancing into the area.[20] Hamas fired a thermobaric rocket targeting Israeli forces east of Deir al Balah on April 3.[21]

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in western and northern Khan Younis on April 3. The IDF 89th Commando Brigade (98th Division) and IDF Givati Brigade are operating in al Amal neighborhood, western Khan Younis. Israeli forces detained and killed Palestinian fighters.[22] The IDF 7th Brigade (36th Division) located unspecified weapons in Khan Younis.[23] Israeli engineering forces and the IDF Air Force destroyed weapons depots and militia infrastructure in the area.[24] The IDF reported on April 3 that its 7th Brigade has been operating in Qarara in northern Khan Younis.[25] Israeli forces located and destroyed a rocket launcher in an olive grove and engaged Palestinian fighters in the area.

Palestinian militias continued trying to defend against Israeli clearing operations in Khan Younis on April 3. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fired anti-tank shells targeting Israeli forces in al Amal neighborhood.[26] The group also mortared Israeli forces in an unspecified area in western Khan Younis.[27]

Axios reported new details of a virtual meeting between senior US and Israeli officials to discuss a possible Israeli clearing operation into Rafah.[28] US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met virtually with Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Israeli Minster for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer on April 1.[29] Unspecified sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said that the Israeli delegation presented a plan to evacuate over one million people from Rafah over at least four weeks.[30] The US side responded saying that the timeline was an unrealistic estimate and that the current humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip did not create confidence in Israel’s ability to conduct an orderly evacuation. Israel rejected a US claim that an evacuation ought to take four months. The sources said that the US message to the Israelis was that the IDF needs to operate more slowly and with lower intensity than it did in Gaza City and in Khan Younis.

The Qatari prime minister said on April 3 that the main point of dispute in Israel-Hamas ceasefire negotiations is over the return of displaced people to different parts of the Gaza Strip.[31] Hamas has made the return of all displaced Palestinians to the northern Gaza Strip a major point in its negotiation demands, along with a comprehensive permanent ceasefire, the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, and adequate humanitarian relief.[32] Al Jazeera reported on April 1 that the Israeli negotiators in Cairo amended their stance on the return of displaced Palestinians to the northern Gaza Strip to a gradual return of 60,000 people into the northern Gaza Strip.[33] The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office reported on April 2 that Israel has created an “updated” ceasefire proposal for Hamas to review.[34]

Israeli Army Radio reported that the IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) was responsible for mistakenly directing the airstrike that killed seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) in the Gaza Strip on April 1.[35] The report noted that the Nahal Brigade has killed over two dozen Hamas fighters in the same area over the past few weeks. It also said that Hamas often tries to take control of humanitarian aid convoys. Unspecified senior IDF officials reportedly warned IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi in recent days that their coordination mechanism with international aid organizations in the Gaza Strip was not functioning properly. The IDF inaugurated a joint command between the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)—a department within the Israeli Defense Ministry—and the IDF Southern Command on April 3 to improve the coordination between Israeli military headquarters and the management of humanitarian aid.[36] US President Joe Biden said following the attack that the Israeli government “has not done enough to protect aid workers.”[37]

PIJ launched rockets from the Gaza Strip targeting Kissufim in southern Israel on March 3.[38]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have conducted raids in the West Bank and engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on April 2.[39] The IDF conducted a “divisional operation” in al Faraa camp, south of Tubas.[40] Hamas, PIJ, and al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed separate shooting attacks targeting Israeli forces there.[41] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades also targeted Israeli forces with unspecified IEDs.[42]

Palestinian media cited local sources claiming that Palestinian fighters targeted the Qalandia checkpoint north of Jerusalem with an IED.[43]

A 26-year-old Arab Israeli conducted separate car ramming and stabbing attacks in central Israel on April 3.[44] The individual targeted four Israeli police officers at a temporary checkpoint in Kochav Yair, which borders the West Bank.[45] He then drove south to the Eliyahu crossing, where he attempted to stab security guards stationed there.[46] Israeli security forces at the Eliyahu crossing shot and killed him. Israeli police identified the attacker as a resident of Tira in central Israel.[47]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 2.[48]

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed on April 2 to have conducted a drone attack targeting Haifa Airport in Israel.[49] Israeli officials and media have not confirmed the attack at the time of this writing. CTP-ISW cannot verify the Islamic Resistance in Iraq claim.

Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech on April 3 emphasizing Syria’s role in Iran’s Axis of Resistance.[50] Nasrallah’s comments follow an Israeli airstrike in Syria that killed a senior Iranian military commander and some of his top subordinates on April 1.[51] The speech was for a “Quds Platform” event, which included speeches from Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh, PIJ Secretary General Ziyad al Nakhalah, and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba Secretary General Akram al Kaabi.[52] Nasrallah singled out Syria in the speech and said that Syria has not “modified or changed its position” despite the “daily aggression” that it faces.[53] Israel has been conducting an air campaign to disrupt the Iranian transfer of military material to its proxies and partners in Lebanon and Syria throughout the current war. Nasrallah added that Syria is the “incubator and supporter of all resistance movements” in the region. Nasrallah also praised militia operations in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Yemen.[54]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking said that the United States is trying to negotiate a diplomatic solution to stop Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.[55] Lenderking said that the Biden administration would considerbut not guaranteerevoking the Houthi’s terrorist designation if the Houthis stopped attacks into the Red Sea.[56] He also said that the Houthis could demonstrate a “show of good faith” and “intent to deescalate” by releasing the crew of the Galaxy Leader, which the Houthis hijacked in November 2023.[57]

Iranian leaders are continuing to hold Israel and the United States responsible for the April 1 airstrike targeting Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officials in Syria and vowing to exact revenge. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called Israel’s airstrike in Syria “desperate” and claimed that it is not enough to save Israel from failure in the Israel-Hamas war. Khamenei made these remarks during a pre-scheduled meeting for Ramadan.[58] IRGC spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ramazan Sharif announced that the funeral ceremony for the IRGC officials killed in Damascus will take place simultaneously with the World Quds Day march in Tehran on April 5.[59] Quds Day is an annual anti-Israel holiday established by Iran that occurs on the last Friday of Ramadan.[60] Sharif further stated that the killing of IRGC officers increases the IRGC’s and Iranian people’s motivation to confront Israel. Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi stated that the Israeli airstrike would not go unanswered.[61]

UK-based Amwaj media, citing an unspecified political source in Iran, outlined three potential Iranian responses to the April 1 Israeli airstrike targeting IRGC officials in Syria.[62] The source stated that Iran will not likely target Israel directly but may target an Israeli diplomatic target abroad. Iranian officials and state media similarly suggested on April 2 that Iran may attack Israeli diplomatic facilities in response.[63] The source alternatively said that Iran may respond in a way that is unclear to others but clear to Iran and Israel. This approach could include targeting a Mossad center, such as those the regime alleges are in Azerbaijan and Iraqi Kurdistan.[64] The source lastly said that Iran may avoid a quick response for the time being.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on April 3 that Russian forces have deployed to a new observation post along Syria-Golan Heights border.[65] The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the purpose of the observation post is to “maintain order and peace in Syria” and that the post was established in mutual agreement with the Syrian regime. Russian forces have previously bolstered their position in southern Syria during the Israel-Hamas War, reportedly to “monitor the ceasefire” between Israel and Syria.[66] Russian forces most recently established a joint observation post with the Syrian Arab Army on the border with the Golan Heights on March 13.[67]

The Iranian rial depreciated to a record low of 634,000 rials to the US dollar on April 3.[68] A member of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce claimed that the recent rial exchange rate fluctuations were a “temporary” response to the Israeli airstrike targeting IRGC officers in Syria on April 1. The value of the rial was 32,000 rials to one US dollar when the United States and Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in July 2015.[69]

Iranian Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian attended the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) security council secretaries meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, on April 2 and 3.[70] This event marked Ahmadian’s first time attending an SCO meeting since becoming SNSC secretary in May 2023 and since Iran became a full member state in July 2023.[71] The meeting participants discussed items related to the SCO’s stated mission as a collective security organization, including combating terrorism, drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, and confidence-building-and-security-measures.[72] Ahmadian also held separate bilateral meetings with his SCO counterparts on the sidelines of the wider meeting to discuss the implementation of bilateral economic, defense, and security cooperation agreements.[73] CTP-ISW previously assessed in July 2023 that Iran likely seeks to use its membership in the SCO to circumvent sanctions through non-US dollar financial transactions with other SCO countries, accelerate the construction of various regional transit corridors which will confer new sources of revenue, and reap military benefits from participating in the SCO’s combined counterterrorism and naval exercises.[74]

The Iranian Intelligence and Security Ministry arrested two alleged members of the Afghan branch of the Islamic State—named Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP)—in Qom on April 2.[75] Iranian state media reported that the two suspected ISKP members were attempting to conduct an unspecified attack on the Fatima Masumeh Shrine in Qom, which is considered the second holiest site in Iran for Shias.[76] These arrests follow an uptick in Salafji-jihadi activity across several Iranian provinces in recent months and years.[77] Two ISKP members detonated suicide vests during a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the United States killing Qassem Soleimani, killing at least 84 civilians and wounding dozens of others, on January 3.[78] ISKP similarly conducted two attacks on the Shah Cheragh Shrine in Shiraz, Fars Province, in August 2023 and October 2022.[79]

Iran Update, April 2, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Andie Parry, Annika Ganzeveld, Ashka Jhaveri, Kathryn Tyson, Peter Mills and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

A prominent Iranian-backed Iraqi militia threatened to create and arm a new Iranian proxy in Jordan, which may reflect a greater, more confrontational, shift in the Iranian strategy vis-a-vis Jordan. Kataib Hezbollah military spokesperson Hussein Moanes, also known as Abu Ali al Askari, said on April 1 that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which is a coalition of Iranian-backed militias, has prepared to “equip” 12,000 “Islamic Resistance in Jordan” fighters with a significant supply of weapons.[1] The mention of an Islamic resistance network in Jordan is a notable inflection, as Iranian and Iranian-backed actors have not previously mentioned the existence of such an entity. Moanes said that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq seeks to equip Jordanian fighters, so that Iraq and Jordan can jointly attack Israel to ”defend” the Palestinian cause. Kataib Hezbollah released the statement in response to an Israeli airstrike in Damascus on April 1, which killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) members.[2] Moanes’ statement is likely aspirational given the current strength of the Jordanian armed forces and the operational costs and time required to create a pro-Iran network in Jordan.

Kataib Hezbollah’s choice to publicize its desire to set up a large armed militia indicates a growing Iranian interest in using Jordan in its anti-Israel campaign, however. Jordan offers a direct front from which Iranian-backed fighters could more easily conduct and direct attacks into Israel. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq already utilizes Jordanian airspace for its drone attacks into Israel.[3] An active and well-armed Iranian-backed militia based out of Jordan would dramatically advance Iran’s military encirclement of Israel.

An expanding Axis of Resistance network in Jordan would also facilitate Iranian efforts in the West Bank. Jordanian territory also offers multiple ground routes through which Iran could move military materiel into the West Bank. Tehran has sought to develop the capabilities and infrastructure of its militia network in the West Bank in recent years, but the Israel-Hamas war has highlighted the shortcomings of the networks there.[4] Palestinian militias in the West Bank remain relatively disorganized and still use rudimentary capabilities to attack Israel and Israeli forces compared to the militias in the Gaza Strip. Iranian leaders could conclude that they need to invest further in building their networks into Jordan to develop their militia infrastructure in the West Bank more effectively.

Moanes’ separately declared that Kataib Hezbollah would “cut off” land routes that “reach” Israel.[5] Kataib Hezbollah may be referring to the transportation line connecting ports in the Persian Gulf to Israel via Saudi Arabia and Jordan.[6] A likely Iranian-backed militia drone exploded on the Jordan-Israel border near Eilat on April 2, near where trucks carrying Israeli goods from the Gulf States enter Israel via Jordan.[7] CTP-ISW is unable to confirm the drone's target. However, the location is notable because Israel has increasingly relied on this land route to compensate for reduced trade activity through Eilat due to the Houthi’s anti-shipping campaign.[8] The Houthi movement has emphasized that its drone and missile campaign seeks to create a blockade that will destroy the Israeli economy and analogized ongoing Houthi operations to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which Egypt seized Israeli shipping near the Bab al Mandeb.[9] Kataib Hezbollah attacks targeting this land route would support the Houthis’ efforts.

Recent domestic unrest and large sustained demonstrations in Jordan against the Jordanian government’s Israel policy may be driving Iran and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq to approach Jordanian infiltration differently and more overtly. Thousands of Jordanians have demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman since March 24.[10] The protestors have called for the Jordanian government to cut diplomatic ties with Israel, withdraw from the 1994 peace treaty, and cut off the trade route between the Persian Gulf and Israel that cuts through Jordanian territory.[11] Protestors have repeatedly clashed with Jordanian security services, and the government has accused groups of stirring up ”strife.”[12] Protestors have also expressed support for Hamas and called for armed resistance against Israel.[13]  Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s leaders have praised the Jordanian protest movement as an important part of resistance against Israel.[14] The Jordanian state’s strong security apparatus, high degree of domestic control, and close relationship with the US military are significant obstacles for Kataib Hezbollah or other Iranian-backed actors if they choose to develop a network in Jordan.

The Iranian regime may target US forces or Israeli diplomatic facilities in retaliation for the April 1 Israeli airstrike in Damascus that killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officials.[15] Israel struck a building directly adjacent to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, killing senior IRGC commanders Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi and Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hadi Haj Rahimi.[16] The commanders were discussing the Israel-Hamas war with Palestinian militia leaders, including PIJ leaders, at the time of the Israeli airstrike.[17] Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned on April 2 following the attack that Israel will “be punished by the hands of our brave men.”[18] The Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), which is the Iranian regime’s highest defense and foreign policy body, separately held an emergency meeting on April 1 to discuss the airstrike.[19] Iranian state media reported that the SNSC “adopted appropriate decisions” regarding the airstrike.[20] The SNSC’s members are senior Iranian political and security figures, including the president, parliament speaker, judiciary chief, and the commanding officers responsible for the Armed Forces General Staff, IRGC, Artesh, and Law Enforcement Command.[21]

Iranian officials and media are accusing the United States of enabling the Israeli airstrike, possibly to set conditions to target US forces in the Middle East. Political advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and former SNSC Secretary Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani claimed on April 2 that the United States “holds direct responsibility” for the Israeli airstrike “and its consequences.”[22] Iranian Armed Forces General Staff-controlled media separately claimed on April 2 that the United States gave Israel the “green light” to conduct the airstrike and that Israel “would not dare” conduct such a strike without US “permission.”[23] Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian attributed the Israeli airstrike to the United States and announced that the regime sent an “important message” to the US government following the airstrike via the Swiss ambassador to Iran.[24] Iran has historically held the United States accountable for Israeli military activity against Iran and its proxies. Iranian-backed militants conducted a drone attack in northeastern Syria that killed an American in March 2023 following Israeli airstrikes on Iranian-backed targets in Syria, for example.[25]

Some Iranian officials and media have suggested that Iran may attack Israeli diplomatic facilities in response to the Israeli airstrike. An Iranian parliamentarian called for “openly and directly” targeting the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan in a post on X (Twitter) on April 1.[26] The Iranian regime has historically accused Baku of allowing Israel to use Azerbaijani territory to launch operations against Iran. Armed Forces General Staff-controlled media separately argued that Israeli embassies are “exposed to retaliatory operations.”[27] Iranian regime institutions and media have emphasized that the April 1 Israeli airstrike “crossed a red line” by targeting “diplomatic persons and places” and may therefore regard a retaliatory strike on an Israeli embassy or diplomatic facility as a proportional and reasonable response.[28]

The IDF conducted a drone strike on April 1 in the central Gaza Strip that killed seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen (WCK).[29] WCK reported that its workers were traveling in a “deconflicted“ zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a third soft skin vehicle.[30] The convoy was traveling on the al Rashid coastal road, which Israel has designated as a humanitarian corridor.[31] Unspecified Israeli defense sources told Israeli media that Israel targeted the convoy because of “suspicion” that a Palestinian fighter was traveling with the convoy.[32] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that the IDF “unintentionally targeted” the aid workers.[33] The United States, United Kingdom, and Australia have called on Israel to investigate the attack.[34] The IDF said that the Fact Finding and Assessment Mechanism, a military body tasked with investigating accusations, will investigate the incident.[35]

The IDF said in the aftermath of the World Central Kitchen strike that it will establish a joint command between the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)—a department within the Israeli Defense Ministry—and the IDF Southern Command to improve the coordination between Israeli military headquarters and the management of humanitarian aid.[36] Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant instructed Israeli forces to "maintain an open and transparent line of communication" with international organizations.[37]

The Israeli drone strike has disrupted other aid operations in the Gaza Strip. The WCK has paused its activities “in the region.”[38] Emirati government sources told Axios on March 2 that the UAE has suspended its participation in the maritime aid corridor to the Gaza Strip. This decision will remain in effect until Israel provides assurances the safety of aid workers and completes an investigation into the drone strike, according to the Emirati officials.[39] The UAE plays a significant role in coordinating with the Israeli government for humanitarian efforts via the maritime corridor.[40] The UAE also provided significant funding for the maritime corridor.[41]

Russian Ambassador to Iraq Elbrus Kutrashev claimed that the United States would resort to “blackmailing” the Iraqi government to maintain its presence in Iraq. Kutrashev’s comments are likely part of the Russian effort to supplant the United States as a security partner in Iraq.[42] Kutrashev made this comment during an interview with Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Asaib Ahl al Haq-controlled outlet al Ahad on April 1. Kutrashev claimed that the presence of foreign forces in Iraq negatively affects Iraqi and regional security and stability. Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have made similar statements, calling the US presence in Iraq “destabilizing.”[43] Kutrashev further claimed that the Iraqi Army is “strong and capable” enough to “fill the void of foreign forces.”[44] This claim ignores the fact that the Iraqi Security Forces, of which the Iraqi Army is apart, faces deficiencies in fire support, intelligence, logistics, and planning that decrease the ISF’s ability to confront some internal threats, such as ISIS, alone.[45] Kutrashev has met with at least six Iraqi officials, including senior security leaders, since January 2024.[46] CTP-ISW previously assessed in February 2024 that Russia may be setting conditions to try to supplant the United States as Iraq’s security partner in anticipation of the United States possibly reducing its military presence there.[47]

Key Takeaways:

  • Jordan: A prominent Iranian-backed Iraqi militia threatened to create and arm a new Iranian proxy militia in Jordan, which may reflect a greater, more confrontational, shift in the Iranian strategy vis-a-vis Jordan.
  • Recent domestic unrest and large sustained demonstrations against Jordan’s Israel policy may be causing Iran and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq to approach Jordanian infiltration differently and more overtly.
  • Iran: The Iranian regime may target US forces or Israeli diplomatic facilities in retaliation for the Israeli airstrike in Damascus that killed seven IRGC officials.
  • Central Gaza Strip: The IDF conducted a drone strike in the central Gaza Strip that killed seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen.
  • Iraq: Russian Ambassador to Iraq Elbrus Kutrashev claimed that the United States would resort to “blackmailing” the Iraqi government to maintain its presence in Iraq. Kutrashev’s comments are likely part of the Russian effort to supplant the United States as a security partner in Iraq.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces conducted raids in the West Bank and engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah threatened that it would retaliate in an unspecified manner against Israel in retaliation for the Israeli airstrike in Damascus that killed seven IRGC officials.
  • Syria: An unspecified Iranian-backed militia conducted a drone attack targeting US forces stationed at al Tanf Garrison in Homs Province, Syria. This attack marks the first Iranian-backed militia attack targeting US forces in the Middle East since February 4.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM reported that it destroyed a Houthi unmanned surface vessel that posed a threat to US ships and merchant vessels in the Red Sea.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian militias continued attacks targeting Israeli forces near Gaza City on April 2. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the war, said that its fighters fired small arms targeting an Israeli soldier in a house near al Shifa Hospital after returning “from the battle lines.”[48] The IDF withdrew from al Shifa Hospital on April 1 after concluding a two-week long operation in the area.[49] Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighters mortared Israeli forces in an unspecified area southwest of Gaza City.[50]

Israeli forces continued clearing operations in western and northern Khan Younis on April 2. The IDF 7th Brigade (36th Division) directed an airstrike targeting Palestinian fighters and weapons depots in Qarara, northern Khan Younis.[51] The IDF 89th Commando Brigade (98th Division) killed Palestinian fighters and confiscated weapons during ”raids“ in al Amal neighborhood, western Khan Younis.[52] The IDF Egoz Unit detained ”dozens” of Palestinian fighters near Nasser Hospital in western Khan Younis.[53] Israeli forces also conducted searches near the Nasser Hospital and al Amal Hospital to ”ensure Hamas has not established infrastructure there again.”[54]

 The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office reported on April 2 that Israel has created an “updated” ceasefire proposal for Hamas to review.[55] The office confirmed that an Israeli delegation will return from Cairo on April 2 as it concluded an “additional intensive round of negotiations.”

Palestinian militias did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on April 2.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces conducted raids in the West Bank and engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations on April 2.[56] Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fighters engaged Israeli forces with small arms during an Israeli ”counterterrorism” raid in Qalandia refugee camp to detain and question unspecified "suspects.“[57] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade Nablus Battalion said that it targeted Israeli special operations forces with small arms and improvised explosive devices in Balata refugee camp. The Israeli forces were conducting a raid in Balata.[58] Israeli forces detained a total of 22 wanted people during raids in the West Bank.[59] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades separately targeted two Israeli checkpoints and an Israeli settlement near Tulkarm where Israeli forces are permanently stationed.[60]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 1.[61] Hezbollah that reportedly fired at least 30 rockets targeting Israeli civilians in Gesher HaZiv, near Nahariya.[62]

Hezbollah condemned the Israeli airstrike in Syria on April 1 that killed a senior Iranian military commander and some of his top subordinates.[63] Hezbollah said that the commander, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, ”developed and advanced the work of the resistance in Lebanon."[64] Zahedi most recently commanded the IRGC Quds Force unit responsible for overseeing operations in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the Palestinian Territories.[65] Hezbollah threatened that it would retaliate in an unspecified manner against Israel for conducting the strike.

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Israeli air defenses shot down several projectiles that likely Iranian-backed militias fired from Syria on April 1. An Israeli military correspondent said that Israel shot down a cruise missile approaching the Golan Heights from Syria.[66] No group has taken responsibility for the attack at the time of writing. Syrian sources reported that the IDF conducted an airstrike in Daraa, southern Syria, in response to the attack.[67] Axios also reported on April 2 that Israeli air defenses shot down several drones fired from Syria targeting Israel on April 1.[68]

US CENTCOM reported that it destroyed a Houthi unmanned surface vessel on April 1 that posed a threat to US ships and merchant vessels in the Red Sea.[69] CENTCOM did not provide details on the location of the attack.

The Houthis likely demanded on April 1 that a commercial vessel near Hudaydah reveal its position by turning on its automatic identification system (AIS). The UK Maritime Trade Operations reported that an unspecified entity claiming to be the “Yemeni Navy” threatened a commercial vessel to turn on its AIS.[70] The commercial vessel reported hearing “suspected gunshots” after it declined to reveal its location.[71] The Houthi naval arm often refers to itself as the “Yemeni Navy,” but the Houthis are not the internationally recognized Yemeni government and do not control the Yemeni navy.

An unspecified Iranian-backed militia conducted a drone attack targeting US forces stationed at al Tanf Garrison in Homs Province, Syria, on April 1.[72] Unspecified US Defense Department officials confirmed that US forces shot down a one-way attack drone targeting al Tanf.[73] US defense officials did not provide the time of the attack, nor did they confirm whether the attack occurred before or after the Israeli airstrike that killed Zahedi. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iranian-backed militias that has claimed over 190 attacks targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria since the Israel-Hamas war began, has not claimed responsibility for the attack at the time of this writing. This attack marks the first Iranian-backed militia attack targeting US forces in the Middle East since February 4.

Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq Secretary General Mohammad al Tamimi repeated calls to remove US forces from Iraq during an interview with Russian state-controlled media on April 2.[74] Tamimi claimed that the US government “only understands the language of force.” Tamimi said during an interview with US media on March 27 that Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq would resume attacks targeting US forces if the United States does not leave Iraq.[75] Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq has reported ties to Iranian-backed Iraqi militias Asaib Ahl al Haq and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba.[76]

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed a drone attack targeting the Tel Nof Airbase in central Israel on April 2.[77] Israeli officials and media have not confirmed the attack at the time of this writing. CTP-ISW cannot verify the Islamic Resistance in Iraq claim.


Iran Update, April 1, 2024

click here to read the full report with maps

Nicholas Carl, Andie Parry, Peter Mills, Amin Soltani, Kathryn Tyson, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Israel killed one of Iran’s senior-most military commanders in Syria in an airstrike on April 1.[1] Israel struck a building directly adjacent to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, killing Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi and some of his top subordinates.[2] Zahedi was a highly influential and well-connected individual within the Iranian security establishment, having held several key positions throughout his career.[3] Zahedi most recently commanded the IRGC Quds Force unit responsible for overseeing operations in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the Palestinian Territories.[4] Zahedi almost certainly therefore played a prominent role in managing how Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” have escalated against the United States and Israel since the Israel-Hamas war began. Zahedi beforehand commanded the IRGC’s ground and air services and served as the operations deputy at the IRGC’s joint staff.[5] He was also part of an extraordinarily influential and tightly knit circle of senior IRGC officers who met one another during the Iran-Iraq War and have periodically come together in the intervening decades to interfere in Iranian domestic politics.[6] Other members of this informal fraternity include Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who the United States killed in January 2020, and his successor and current Quds Force Commander Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani.

Israel targeted Zahedi as part of an air campaign that it has conducted to disrupt the Iranian transfer of military materiel to its proxies and partners in Lebanon and Syria.[7] Israel has conducted several strikes targeting Iranian and Iranian-backed positions in Syria in recent months to this end, including killing IRGC Brig. Gen. Razi Mousavi outside Damascus in December 2023.[8] Mousavi was one of Zahedi’s subordinates and responsible for moving military assets and equipment through Syria. Zahedi is now the senior-most Iranian officer that Israel has killed in its air campaign.

Iran and its Axis of Resistance may attack US and/or Israeli targets in the coming weeks in retaliation for the killing of Zahedi. The Iranian regime has vowed publicly to avenge Zahedi and is creating a domestic expectation that it will take some dramatic action.[9] Iranian state media celebrated Zahedi’s prominence in the Axis of Resistance, publishing photos of him standing next to Qassem Soleimani and Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.[10] Iranian state media also emphasized that the April 1 Israeli airstrike hit a building that was part of the Iranian embassy and argued that the airstrike thus constitutes an attack on Iranian territory.[11] Iranian and Iranian-backed forces could time part of their retaliation around Quds Day, which is the annual anti-Israel holiday that Iran and its Axis of Resistance promote, on April 5.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) concluded a two-week long operation in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 1. Israeli forces returned to re-clear the area on March 18 after receiving intelligence that Palestinian militias were using the hospital compound as a command-and-control center.[12] Israeli forces killed a total of over 200 Palestinian fighters, some of whom had barricaded themselves inside the hospital.[13] The IDF also detained over 500 Palestinian fighters from near the hospital and seized intelligence documents and weapons.[14] The IDF said on April 1 that it “completed” the mission and that Israeli forces left the hospital area.[15] Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on April 1 that “the terrorist base in Shifa has been eliminated.”[16] The IDF confirmed that Israeli forces will continue to operate in the northern Gaza Strip and "wherever terrorism rears its head."[17] Palestinian militias, including Hamas, confirmed that the IDF withdrew from al Shifa Hospital on April 1.[18]

The IDF captured several senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders in al Shifa, suggesting that the Palestinian militias were using the hospital compound as a command-and control node. The IDF raid sought to disrupt this node. Hamas and other Palestinian militias condemned the IDF for destroying buildings near the hospital complex during the operation.[19] Palestinian fighters had reoccupied the hospital between November 2023—when Israeli forces initially cleared it—and March 2024. The hospital treated patients during this period, meaning that Palestinian militias reoccupied positions at the hospital while the hospital was operating.[20] Palestinian fighters also conducted at least 85 attacks targeting Israeli forces in and around al Shifa Hospital over a two-week period. Many of the 85 attacks were indirect mortar and rocket-propelled grenades aimed at areas near the complex, including its front gate.[21] Three Palestinian militias continued to target Israeli forces at the hospital before the IDF concluded operations there on the morning of April 1.[22] Palestinian fighters also targeted Israeli forces from inside the hospital wards.[23]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran in the Region: An Israeli airstrike targeted a building directly adjacent to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, killing senior IRGC Quds Force commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi and some of his top subordinates.
  • Israel targeted Zahedi as part of an air campaign that it has conducted to disrupt the Iranian transfer of military materiel to its proxies and partners in Lebanon and Syria.
  • Iran and its Axis of Resistance may attack US and/or Israeli targets in the coming weeks in retaliation for the killing of Zahedi.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) concluded a two-week long operation in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 1. The IDF captured several senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders in al Shifa, suggesting that the Palestinian militias were using the hospital compound as a command-and control node.
  • Palestinian fighters had reoccupied the hospital between November 2023—when Israeli forces initially cleared it—and March 2024. The hospital treated patients during this period, meaning that Palestinian militias reoccupied positions at the hospital while the hospital was operating.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Hamas said that its fighters conducted a complex multi-stage ambush targeting an Israeli armored personnel carrier, seven dismounted infantrymen, and a quick reaction force.
  • Iranian-backed Militias in Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—conducted a drone attack that damaged an IDF naval base in Eilat, southern Israel, on March 31.
  • Iran: Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with PIJ Secretary General Ziyad al Nakhalah on March 30 in Tehran.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Hamas reported that its fighters mortared an Israeli command-and-control center west of Tal al Hawa in southwestern Gaza City on March 31.[24] Hamas has claimed almost daily attacks targeting Israeli forces in Tal al Hawa since March 24.[25]

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued to conduct clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on April 1. The Nahal Brigade directed an airstrike targeting a Hamas military structure filled with explosives and a Palestinian militia observation post in the central Gaza Strip.[26]

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 1. The IDF 89th Commando Brigade (98th Division) and Givati Brigade (162nd Division) are operating in al Amal neighborhood in western Khan Younis.[27] The brigades engaged Palestinian fighters and raided militia infrastructure.[28] The forces also detained Palestinian fighters and seized weapons, including explosives.[29] The IDF Air Force struck two vehicles filled with Palestinian fighters approaching Israeli ground forces in Khan Younis.[30]

Two Palestinian militias claimed that they ambushed Israeli forces in central Khan Younis City on April 1. Hamas said that its fighters conducted a complex multi-stage ambush targeting an Israeli armored personnel carrier, seven dismounted infantrymen, and a quick reaction force. The Hamas fighters first engaged the APC and dismounts before using unspecified “heavy weapons” targeting the quick reaction force.[31] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the war, claimed separately that it ambushed Israeli forces in central Khan Younis City.[32] Hamas and al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed that the attacks killed and wounded Israeli forces, but the IDF has not acknowledged casualties from the attacks at the time of writing.

Al Jazeera reported on April 1 that the Israeli negotiating delegation in Cairo amended its stance on the return of displaced Palestinians to the northern Gaza Strip.[33] Israeli negotiators proposed a gradual, month-long return of 60,000 people into the northern Gaza Strip at a rate of 2,000 people per day.[34] The 60,000 returned Gazans would be housed in tents and not return to their homes.[35] Israel stipulated that fighting aged men are prevented from returning to the northern Gaza Strip.[36] Hamas has made the return of all displaced Palestinians to the northern Gaza Strip a major point in its hostage negotiation demands, along with a comprehensive permanent ceasefire, the complete withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip, and adequate humanitarian relief.[37] The new Israeli stance reportedly did not lead to a breakthrough in negotiations, but an unspecified Israeli official told Israeli media on April 1 that negotiators are making ”some progress” in Cairo.[38]

Senior US and Israeli officials held a secure video conference to discuss the Biden administration’s “alternative proposals” to a possible Israeli clearing operation into Rafah on April 1.[39] US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Israeli Minster for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer chaired the meeting.[40] Hanegbi and Dermer were originally expected to visit Washington in person on March 25, but Tel Aviv rescheduled the meeting.[41] The joint statement released by the White House said that the meeting on Rafah was constructive and that both parties want to see Hamas defeated in Rafah. Israeli and US officials will hold follow up discussions ”as early as next week.”[42]

Hamas’ internal security said on March 31 that Hamas detained ten security officers from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the Gaza Strip.[43] Hamas claimed that the PA sent security forces to the Gaza Strip to protect aid trucks and that the PA’s intelligence chief supervised the operation.[44] The group added that the individuals had ”coordinated [their] operations entirely with [Israel].”[45] An unspecified PA official denied Hamas’ claims.[46] Hamas killed the leader of a local clan in the Gaza Strip on March 13 for stealing humanitarian aid and collaborating with Israel.[47] CTP-ISW has observed no evidence that the individuals Hamas detained are associated with the PA.

Palestinian militias did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on April 1.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in Tulkarm in the West Bank on March 31.[48] The al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades fired small arms at Israeli forces and detonated IEDs targeting these forces during an Israeli operation in the area.[49]

A Palestinian attacker wounded three Israeli civilians in a stabbing attack in Gan Yavne, east of Ashdod, on March 31. Israeli forces killed the attacker. Israeli media reported that the attacker is from the town of Dura near Hebron and was in Israel without a permit.[50] Hamas and the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement praised the attack.[51] Israeli security forces searched the home of the attacker in Dura overnight on March 31 and the IDF said that it will question suspects in the area.[52]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least five attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 31.[53]

The head of Israel’s National Emergency Management Authority said on April 1 that Israel has stockpiled fuel, food, and medical supplies in recent months in preparation for a wider conflict with Hezbollah.[54] Brigadier General Yoram Laredo said that Israel has invested over $500 million to boost these stockpiles to prepare for an ”all-out war” with Hezbollah. An official in an Israeli government-owned electricity company said that a conflict with Hezbollah would cause major disruptions to Israel’s supply of natural gas and electricity.[55]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—conducted a drone attack that damaged an IDF naval base in Eilat on March 31.[56] IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari acknowledged the strike and stated that the drone "was made in Iran” and that the attack was "directed by Iran.”[57] An Israeli journalist and western analyst posted videos that showed the drone impacting a hanger next to an Israeli warship.[58] Israeli media reported that three attacks have penetrated IDF air defenses around Eilat since October 7: an Islamic Resistance in Iraq drone attack on November 9, 2023, a Houthi cruise missile attack on March 17, 2024, and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq attack on March 31.[59] Hagari stated separately that the IDF was investigating how the March 31 drone was able to penetrate IDF air defenses.[60] 

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with PIJ Secretary General Ziyad al Nakhalah on March 30 in Tehran.[61] Abdollahian praised the unity of the Palestinian resistance groups and said that the arrival of Palestinian militia leaders in Tehran ahead of Quds Day—an annual anti-Israel holiday on April 5—sends an “important message” to the region and the world about the Axis of Resistance.[62] Haniyeh and Nakhalah both arrived in Tehran on March 26 and have since met with other senior Iranian officials, including the supreme leader.[63] The simultaneous visits of both Haniyeh and Nakhalah are noteworthy, as Iranian leaders have repeatedly emphasized the need for greater cohesion among Palestinian militias fighting Israel.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called on unspecified “Muslim countries” to work together to support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 31.[64] Raisi also condemned purported Israeli violations of international law and called for greater economic cooperation between Iran and Turkey. Iranian officials and media have repeatedly pressured Muslim countries, particularly Turkey and Azerbaijan, to sever economic and political ties with Israel since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war.[65] ICTP-ISW has previously assessed that the Iranian regime is exploiting the Israel-Hamas war to try to politically isolate Israel in the Middle East.[66]

US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that it destroyed two Houthi drones on March 30. CENTCOM destroyed one drone over the Red Sea and a second in Houthi-controlled Yemen.[67]

Houthi-affiliated media also claimed that the US conducted airstrikes against an unspecified target near Hudaydah on April 1.[68]  

Iran Update, March 31, 2024

click here to read the full report with maps

Ashka Jhaveri, Peter Mills and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

CTP-ISW will publish abbreviated updates on March 30 and 31, 2024. Detailed coverage will resume Monday, April 1, 2024

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF continued to conduct clearing operations in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
  • Central Gaza Strip: The IDF said that its Air Force conducted a drone strike targeting a PIJ command-and-control center in the al Aqsa Hospital complex in Deir al Balah.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in Khan Younis.
  • Political Negotiations: Egyptian state media reported, citing an unspecified security source, that Israel and Hamas have resumed ceasefire negotiations.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least seven locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it launched a drone targeting an unspecified target in Eilabun, Israel.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued to conduct clearing operations in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 31.[1] These operations hit their two-week mark, as Israeli forces returned to re-clear the area on March 18. Israeli forces killed Palestinian fighters, who had barricaded themselves inside the hospital. The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) is operating in the maternity complex, where it has engaged Palestinian fighters and located weapons.[2] The IDF 215th Artillery Brigade and IDF Air Force struck several buildings in the vicinity of al Shifa Hospital that Palestinian fighters recently used to fire anti-tank munitions and small arms targeting Israeli forces.[3] Four Palestinian militias launched mortars and rockets targeting Israeli forces near al Shifa Hospital on March 31.[4] Hamas fighters separately targeted an Israeli soldier with sniper fire near al Shifa Hospital.[5]

Hamas reported that its fighters fired an anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade targeting Israeli armor west of Tal al Hawa in southwestern Gaza City.[6]

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162 Division) continued to conduct clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on March 31.[7] Israeli forces directed an airstrike targeting a Palestinian fighter squad that emerged from a tunnel shaft in the area.[8] Israeli snipers separately destroyed a Palestinian fighter squad moving toward Israeli infantry.

The IDF said on March 31 that its Air Force conducted a drone strike targeting a PIJ command-and-control center in the al Aqsa Hospital complex in Deir al Balah.[9] PIJ fighters were present at the center, according to the IDF.[10] A spokesperson for the hospital said that the drone strike killed at least two people and wounded over a dozen.[11] The IDF said that the hospital is still functioning and that the drone strike hit the area precisely to reduce harm to civilians.[12] The al Aqsa Hosptial is the last functioning hospital in Deir al Balah.

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on March 31.[13] The IDF 89th Commando Brigade (98th Division) and Givati Brigade (162nd Division) are operating in al Amal neighborhood in western Khan Younis.[14] A Palestinian journalist reported that Israeli forces advanced to southwestern Deir al Balah and toward the Khan Younis port.[15] Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) reported that its fighters engaged Israeli special operations forces with small arms south of Deir al Balah.[16]

Egyptian state media reported on March 31, citing an unspecified security source, that Israel and Hamas have resumed ceasefire negotiations.[17] Hamas rejected the most recent US proposal for a ceasefire on March 26, after which several people familiar with negotiations noted that the talks had reached another stalemate.[18] Hamas’ representative to Lebanon said during an interview on March 31 that Israel is not interested in reaching a deal.[19]

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that senior Hamas operatives described Hamas as “collapsing from within” during questioning.[20] Gallant made the comment at the IDF 98th Division headquarters on March 31. Israeli forces have detained hundreds of Palestinian fighters in recent weeks who have helped the IDF kill those who were involved in the October 7 attack.

Palestinian militias did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on March 31.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least seven locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 30.[21]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 30.[22]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it launched a drone targeting an unspecified target in Eilabun, Israel, on March 30.[23] The IDF Air Force intercepted a drone entering Israel from Syria on March 30.[24] This drone was presumably the same one that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq launched.

Iran Update, March 30, 2024

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Andie Parry, Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF Air Force struck Palestinian fighters and militia infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in western and northern Khan Younis.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least 11 attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed a drone attack targeting an unspecified Israeli military facility in the Golan Heights.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Air Force struck Palestinian fighters and militia infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip on March 30. The IDF 215th Artillery Brigade (162nd Division), which has been targeting Palestinian militia assets and positions in the northern Gaza Strip, directed the airstrikes, which targeting Palestinian fighters around a military building in an unspecified area of the northern Gaza Strip.[1]

Israeli forces continued operating in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 30. The IDF 162nd Division located militia infrastructure and unspecified weapons near the hospital.[2] Israeli forces also engaged Palestinian fighters in the area.[3] The IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said on March 29 that the al Shifa Hospital operation ”achieved its goal” but that Israeli forces would continue to operate there.[4] Halevi called the operation a ”great achievement” for leading to the capture and death of many senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighters during his visit to the al Shifa Hospital area.[5] The IDF separately announced that Israeli forces killed two senior Hamas officials in al Shifa Hospital, who were responsible for organizing attacks targeting Israel from the West Bank.[6] Both senior officials were released in a hostage-for-prisoner exchange in 2011.[7]

Palestinian militias have continued attacks targeting Israeli forces around al Shifa Hospital. Hamas targeted Israeli forces with mortars, anti-personnel explosive charges, and rocket-propelled grenades on March 29.[8] PIJ mortared an Israeli command-and-control node on March 30.[9]

The IDF Nahal Brigade continued to conduct clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on March 30. The brigade directed an airstrike on a Palestinian militia squad transporting weapons from a military building.[10] The airstrike caused several secondary explosions, indicating that the building contained ammunition storage.[11] PIJ mortared an Israeli artillery and command-and-control position in the eastern central governorate on March 29.[12]

Israeli forces engaged Palestinian militias in southern Gaza City on March 30. Israeli forces engaged PIJ in Mughraqa, south of Israeli-built highway Route 749.[13] Palestinian media reported clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters in Mughraqa and Zahra on March 30.[14]

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in western and northern Khan Younis on March 30. The IDF 98th Division targeted Palestinian fighters and militia infrastructure in al Qarara, northern Khan Younis.[15] The IDF Givati Brigade separately destroyed a Palestinian militia squad that attempted to target Israeli forces with an explosive device in al Amal, western Khan Younis.[16]

Several Palestinian militias targeted Israeli forces in Khan Younis on March 30. Hamas detonated an explosively formed penetrator targeting an Israeli tank in central Khan Younis.[17] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the war, claimed that it ambushed Israeli forces in central Khan Younis.[18] The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which is a leftist Palestinian militia aligned with Hamas in the war, targeted Israeli forces operating near Nasser Hospital and central Khan Younis with multiple attack waves.[19] Other Palestinian fighters mortared Israeli forces in Qarara, northern Khan Younis.[20]

US and Israeli officials may discuss a possible Israeli clearing operation into Rafah in a high-level meeting in Washington, DC, as soon as April 1, according to unspecified US officials.[21] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved plans for a clearing operation into Rafah on March 15.[22] Axios reported on March 27 that Netanyahu is expected to send Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi to Washington for the high-level meeting with US officials.[23]

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant discussed establishing a multinational Arab coalition to improve law and order in the Gaza Strip and escort humanitarian aid convoys during his recent visit to Washington, DC, according to unspecified Israeli officials.[24] Israeli officials reportedly believe that a multinational force could help establish a viable alternative to Hamas rule. The proposal includes an Arab force remaining in the Gaza Strip for a “limited transition period.” The forces would be responsible for securing the temporary US pier and distributing aid to civilians. Israeli officials have already met with prospective countries to discuss the multinational force. An unspecified Arab official from one of the countries reportedly involved in the plan said that Gallant misunderstood the Arab position and that the countries are not ready to send troops into the Gaza Strip to secure aid now but that they might consider it in a post-war scenario.[25] The Arab countries' involvement is conditional on steps toward a two-state solution following the war. Hamas published a statement on March 30 on behalf of several Palestinian factions rejecting the Israeli proposal to send Arab forces to manage the Gaza Strip.[26]

The United States has warned Israel that a “total breakdown of law and order” is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the strip.[27] The absence of a local security force contributes to this issue.[28] Hamas has already sought to reconstitute militarily and rebuild its governing authority in the northern Gaza Strip after the Israeli drawdown in the strip that began in December 2023, as CTP-ISW has previously reported.[29]

The second delivery of humanitarian aid via the maritime corridor left Cyprus for the Gaza Strip on March 30.[30] World Central Kitchen (WCK) organized the delivery, which includes “hundreds of tons of food.”

Palestinian militias did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on March 30. The IDF Air Force conducted airstrikes targeting a launch area in the Gaza Strip following a rocket attack targeting Kissufim on March 29.[31] PIJ published footage of its fighters' firing rockets from the northern Gaza Strip targeting Sderot after the group claimed a rocket attack on March 25.[32] Palestinian militias have launched most of their indirect fire attacks into Israel from the northern and central Gaza Strip since January 2024.[33]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 29.[34] The Popular Resistance Committees reported that its fighters fired small arms targeting Homesh, north of Nablus.[35]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least 11 attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 29.[36]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed a drone attack targeting an unspecified Israeli military facility in the Golan Heights on March 29.[37] Israeli officials have not commented on the attack at the time of this writing. CTP-ISW cannot verify this claim.

Iran Update, March 29, 2024

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Andie Parry, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Annika Ganzeveld, Kathryn Tyson and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Iranian Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS) Chief Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri met with Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh in Tehran on March 29. Bagheri praised Hamas’ October 7 attack and reemphasized the Iranian regime’s commitment to supporting the Palestinian cause, describing the latter as one of Tehran’s “main objectives.” Bagheri separately claimed that Israel would have already “collapsed” without support from the United States.[1] Haniyeh separately met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on March 26, President Ebrahim Raisi on March 27, and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf on March 28.[2]

The meeting between Bagheri and Haniyeh is particularly noteworthy considering Bagheri’s role within the regime. Bagheri holds the most senior military role in Iran and is responsible for military policy and strategic guidance to the Iranian armed forces. CTP-ISW assessed on March 28 that several senior Axis of Resistance officials have traveled to Tehran in recent weeks likely in part to coordinate their reaction to a possible, major Israeli operation into southern Lebanon.[3]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Iranian Armed Forces General Staff Chief Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri met with Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh in Tehran.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued operating in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias claimed 11 attacks targeting Israeli forces in al Amal and al Qarara after several weeks of only a few claimed attacks around Khan Younis.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces detained a PIJ fighter in the Nour Shams refugee camp near Tulkarm.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: The IDF Air Force killed the deputy commander of Hezbollah’s missile and rocket unit in an airstrike in al Bazouriyeh in southern Lebanon.
  • Iraq: Iraqi Parliamentary Security and Defense Committee member Yasser Iskandar suggested that Iraq should acquire Russian military aircraft instead of US aircraft.
  • Syria: Israel was likely responsible for a series of airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed positions in Aleppo Province, Syria.
  • Yemen: US Central Command intercepted four Houthi drones that were “aimed at a coalition vessel and a US warship” in the Red Sea.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Israeli forces continued operating in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 29.[4] The IDF 162nd Division located militia infrastructure and unspecified weapons near the hospital.[5] Israeli forces also engaged Palestinian fighters in the area.[6]

Palestinian fighters continued their usual rate of attacks targeting Israeli forces in southern Gaza City. Palestinian fighters have conducted over 80 attacks targeting Israeli forces in and around al Shifa Hospital since Israeli forces returned to the area on March 18. Hamas fighters targeted an Israeli tank with an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) in Tal al Hawa, south of al Shifa Hospital, on March 29.[7] Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades mortared Israeli forces operating near al Shifa Hospital in separate and combined attacks on March 29.[8] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the war, also claimed that its fighters targeted Israeli armor with rocket-propelled grenades near al Shifa Hospital on March 28.[9]

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued to conduct clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on March 29. Israeli aircraft struck a cell of Palestinian fighters near the Nahal Brigade.[10] The Nahal Brigade separately destroyed rockets aimed at Israel.[11]  

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in al Amal and al Qarara neighborhoods of Khan Younis on March 29. The IDF 98th Division targeted Palestinian fighters and militia infrastructure in al Qarara, northern Khan Younis, on March 29.[12] The IDF 89th Commando Brigade killed a Palestinian fighter in a house during a raid and located military equipment in al Amal.[13] The IDF 7th Brigade destroyed militia infrastructure, located weapons, including grenades and explosives, and targeted a cell of Palestinian fighters with tank fire in al Amal. The Givati Brigade separately destroyed a weapons warehouse in al Amal. The IDF launched a second clearing operation in al Amal on March [14][15]

Palestinian militias claimed 11 attacks targeting Israeli forces in al Amal and al Qarara since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on March 28 after several weeks of only a few claimed attacks around Khan Younis.[16] Palestinian militia attack claims in the southern Gaza Strip outnumbered attacks in the northern Gaza Strip on March 29 for the first time since March 14. Several Palestinian militias prefaced their attack claims on March 29 by reporting that their fighters returned from the front lines to give accounts of clashes.[17] This preface suggests that Palestinian fighters may have been regularly targeting Israeli forces in Khan Younis over the past weeks but were unable to communicate attacks to their media arms and/or higher headquarters. CTP-ISW has previously reported on a similar phenomenon with Palestinian fighters in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli forces operating in Khan Younis have consistently reported clashes with Palestinian fighters in al Amal over the past week, despite the low level of Palestinian claims, further suggesting that the Palestinian attack claims in Khan Younis are delayed and that the militias retain some degree of combat effectiveness around Khan Younis.[18]

Palestinian militias claimed a series of high-impact attacks in Khan Younis on March 29. Hamas fighters fired a thermobaric rocket at Israeli forces inside a multi-story building near Nasser Hospital, leading to a large explosion captured on video.[19] The IDF and Israeli media indicated that an Egoz special operations forces (SOF) soldier died and that 16 other Israeli soldiers were injured—some seriously—by the Hamas attack.[20] PIJ said that its fighters ambushed six Israeli SOF members in the Qarara area on March 29, claiming to kill and wound the entire squad.[21] The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which is a leftist Palestinian militia aligned with Hamas in the war, separately claimed that its fighters detonated an improvised explosive device targeting an Israeli personnel carrier in Qarara.[22]

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr. said on March 28 that Israel has committed to help protect US troops who are traveling to the eastern Mediterranean Sea to build and operate a temporary pier meant to transport humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.[23] Brown added that the United States has its own ”capability and capacity to protect” its forces. The US Department of Defense (DOD) confirmed that ”there will be no US boots on the ground” when it announced the project on March 8.[24] US service members could be in range of some Palestinian weapons systems even if stationed offshore, however. A DOD spokesperson confirmed on March 26 that six US ships are “on their way” to the eastern Mediterranean Sea as part of the effort to construct a temporary pier.[25]

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)a department within the Israeli Defense Ministrysaid that nine aid trucks entered the northern Gaza Strip on March 29.[26] The trucks entered through the Gate 96 crossing, which Israel reportedly opened in early March 2024.[27] COGAT said that 47 aid trucks have entered Gate 96 since early March.[28]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu purchased 40,000 tents to house displaced Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in preparation for Israel’s clearing operation into Rafah, according to Israeli media.[29] These reports did not specify where the 40,000 tents will be erected in the Gaza Strip beyond “clear places.“[30] Netanyahu approved plans for a clearing operation into Rafah on March 15.[31]

PIJ and the DLFP fired a rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip targeting a southern Israeli town on March 29.[32]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 28.[33]

Israeli forces detained a PIJ fighter in the Nour Shams refugee camp near Tulkarm on March 29. The IDF said that the fighter planned small arms attacks against Israeli forces and prepared explosive devices to be used to target the IDF and Israeli civilians.[34]

Israeli forces detained five other wanted individuals and confiscated weapons in operations across the West Bank on March 29.[35]

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa formed a new cabinet on March 28 amid calls for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to reform itself.[36] PA President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Mohammad Mustafa as prime minister on March 14.[37] US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the presence of ministers in the cabinet who were born in the Gaza Strip demonstrates that the cabinet intends to be “fully representative of the Palestinian people.”[38] The United States has pushed for the PA to contribute to rebuilding the Gaza Strip after the Israel-Hamas war. An unspecified US government official told Reuters in December 2023 that aides to US President Joe Biden have urged Israeli leaders to drop their opposition to the PA so that it can take a leading role in the post-war Gaza Strip.[39]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 28.[40]

The IDF Air Force killed the deputy commander of Hezbollah’s missile and rocket unit in an airstrike in al Bazouriyeh in southern Lebanon on March 29.[41] The IDF said that Ali Abdel Hassam Naim was a “senior expert” and a “leader in the field of rockets.”[42] The IDF added that Naim specialized in “heavy rockets” and had planned rocket attacks into Israel.[43] Hezbollah acknowledged Naim’s death on March 29.[44] Israeli Defense Minister Gallant said that the IDF will increase attacks targeting Hezbollah following the airstrike.[45] Gallant said that Israel is becoming “offensive rather than defensive” and said that Israel will strike “any place” where Hezbollah is present.

IDF Northern Command Commander Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin met with local Israeli government authorities on March 29 to discuss the IDF’s readiness in northern Israel.[46] Gordin said that the IDF will continue to strike Hezbollah and that the recent IDF Northern Command training exercises will increase readiness in the region.[47]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Iraqi Parliamentary Security and Defense Committee member Yasser Iskandar suggested that Iraq should acquire Russian military aircraft instead of US aircraft during an interview with Iraqi state media on March 29.[48] Iskandar claimed that the Iraqi Air Force spends 200 million dollars annually to maintain its F-16 fighter jets and that the cost of maintaining Russian aircraft would be “much less.”[49] Iskandar stated that Western sanctions on Moscow makes it difficult for Iraq to pay for Russian aircraft but that Iraq is open to developing “air power and air defense” capabilities with “many friends and allies.”[50] Iskandar previously claimed in early March 2024 that the United States has prevented Iraq from developing its air defense capabilities.[51]

Russian Ambassador to Iraq Elbrus Kutrashev has similarly advertised the affordability of Russian military equipment in recent years. Kutrashev claimed that “the main things our Iraqi friends do not like are the price and maintenance costs of American weapons, which are four times more expensive than Russian weapons,” during an interview with Russian state media in December 2022.[52] Kutrashev further claimed that “the Iraqis like Russian and Soviet weapons” but that the West is trying to "hinder the expansion of military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Baghdad.”[53]

CTP-ISW previously assessed that Russia may be setting conditions to try to supplant the United States in anticipation of the United States reducing its military presence there.[54] Kutrashev has met with at least six Iraqi officials, including senior security leaders, since January 2024.[55] Kutrashev has served as Russia’s ambassador to Iraq since April 2021 and has also worked in the Russian embassy in Syria.[56]

The Iraqi electricity minister and the head of the National Iranian Gas Company extended Iran and Iraq’s gas export contract by five years on March 27.[57] The contract stipulates that Iran will export up to 50 million cubic meters of natural gas to Iraq per day.[58] Iraq started importing Iranian natural gas in 2017 to fuel power plants near Baghdad and Basra and has since then relied on Iranian natural gas and electricity exports to produce approximately a quarter of its electricity.[59]

Israel was likely responsible for a series of airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed positions in Aleppo Province, Syria, on March 28. Syrian media claimed that the strikes targeted air defense facilities in Safira and a Lebanese Hezbollah weapons warehouse in Jabreen, which is near the Aleppo International Airport.[60] Reuters reported that strikes killed 33 Syrians and five Hezbollah fighters, including one local field commander, citing unspecified security sources, marking the highest death toll of such a strike in Syria since the Israel-Hamas war began.[61] The Syrian Defense Ministry confirmed the airstrikes and claimed that they resulted in civilian casualties, although CTP-ISW cannot corroborate this assertion.[62]

These airstrikes are part of an Israeli air campaign to disrupt the transfer of Iranian military materiel to its proxies and partners in the Levant, especially Hezbollah. Israel has conducted at least seven other strikes targeting Iranian- and Hezbollah-affiliated targets in Syria in March 2024, which marks a notable increase from an average of 1.6 Israeli strikes per month between December 2023 and February 2024.[63] The IDF said in February 2024 that it had conducted a series of airstrikes in Syria since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to interdict Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah via Syria.[64] Israel has previously targeted Safira—a location linked to missile and chemical weapons development —in May 2023 and 2020 respectively.[65]

The Iranian regime held a funeral ceremony for killed IRGC Quds Force and Basij Member Behrouz Vahedi in Karaj, Alborz Province, on March 29. Vahedi died in a likely Israeli airstrike in Deir Ez Zor Province, Syria, on March 25.[66] Israeli and Syrian media claimed that the strikes caused around 30 casualties, including among members of the IRGC Quds Force, Lebanese Hezbollah, and unspecified Iranian-backed militia commanders in eastern Syria.[67] IRGC Quds Force Commander Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative to Alborz Province attended the funeral procession.[68]

US Central Command (CENTCOM) intercepted four Houthi drones that were “aimed at a coalition vessel and a US warship” in the Red Sea on March 28.[69]

The Iranian Embassy in Moscow hosted on March 28 a discussion on the anti-Israel Quds Day holiday that the Iranian regime promotes annually.[70] The Iranian regime uses Quds Day, which is on April 5 this year, to broadcast the strength and unity of its Axis of Resistance.[71] Iranian state media reported that Russian Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov attended the event.[72] Afghan, Algerian, Azerbaijani, Bangladeshi, Iraqi, Lebanese, Palestinian, Sudanese, and Syrian diplomats also attended.[73] The event—and the regime’s promotion of the Quds holiday in recent days—is consistent with CTP-ISW's longstanding assessment that Iran is trying to exploit the Israel-Hamas war to try to isolate Israel internationally.[74]


Iran Update, March 28, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Andie Parry, Alexandra Braverman, Amin Soltani, Peter Mills, Kathryn Tyson, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET 

A series of senior Axis of Resistance officials have met with senior Iranian officials—including the supreme leader—in March, likely to coordinate and prepare plans for their reaction to a wider Israeli operation into southern Lebanon. Iran and the Axis of Resistance use periodic meetings between senior officials to coordinate responses to new developments in the region. Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force Commander Esmail Ghaani spent much of October 2023 in Beirut for meetings with Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to help coordinate “a possible broader confrontation with Israel,” for example.[1] The Syrian defense minister, Kataib Hezbollah secretary general, Palestinian Islamic Jihad secretary general, and Hamas Political Bureau chairman each met with senior Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in Tehran between March 17 and 28.[2]

This string of meetings comes after IRGC Quds Force Commander Ghaani visited Beirut in February 2024 to discuss the possibility of an Israeli offensive against Hezbollah with Nasrallah. One Iranian source told Reuters that during the meeting Nasrallah told Ghaani that Hezbollah did not want Iran to become involved in a Hezbollah-Israel war.[3] Iran could use the remainder of its proxy network—including actors based in Syria, Iraq, and in the West Bank—against Israel in a Hezbollah-Israel war to support Hezbollah and increase the threat to Israel. PIJ Secretary General Ziyad Nakhalah highlighted the importance of the West Bank in his meeting with Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf in Tehran on March 28, noting that “the resistance is not only in Gaza, but [also] in the West Bank.”[4] Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Iran is seeking to promote major terror attacks by smuggling “high-quality” weapons into the West Bank.[5]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran in the Region: A series of senior Axis of Resistance officials have met with senior Iranian officials—including the supreme leader—in March, likely to coordinate and prepare plans for their reaction to a wider Israeli operation into southern Lebanon.
  • The Syrian defense minister, Kataib Hezbollah secretary general, Palestinian Islamic Jihad secretary general, and Hamas Political Bureau chairman each met with senior Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in Tehran between March 17 and 28.
  • This string of meetings comes after IRGC Quds Force Commander Ghaani visited Beirut in February 2024 to discuss the possibility of an Israeli offensive against Hezbollah with Nasrallah.
  • Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued operating in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 28. Israeli special operations forces (SOF) killed senior Hamas commander Raad Thabet there on March 28.
  • West Bank: An armed Palestinian fired small arms targeting Israeli civilian vehicles near al Auja in the Jordan Valley on March 28, wounding three Israeli civilians.
  • Lebanon: The IDF concluded a week-long training exercise on March 27 aimed at increasing IDF Northern Command readiness in northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Iraqi Foreign Minister said that the recent Islamic State attack in Moscow shows that ISIS is “resurging and stronger than ever” on March 28. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein’s comments are notable given their contrast with the statements of Iranian-backed Iraqi officials, who have claimed that ISIS is no longer a threat to Iraq.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces continued operating in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 28. Israeli forces have killed about 200 Palestinian fighters around the hospital complex since the start of operations there on March 18.[6] Palestinian fighters continued to fire at Israeli forces from inside al Shifa hospital, including from the emergency room.[7]

Israeli special operations forces (SOF) killed senior Hamas commander Raad Thabet at al Shifa Hospital on March 28.[8] Thabet was responsible for Hamas’ "supply and personnel unit,” according to the IDF. The IDF spokesperson said Israel considered Thabet among the top 10 senior-most Hamas military commanders in the Gaza Strip.[9] Israeli forces killed Thabet and two other Hamas fighters as they entered the hospital area.[10]

Most of the Palestinian militia attacks on March 28 targeted Israeli forces in and around al Shifa Hospital.[11] Palestinian fighters targeted Israeli forces with mortar fire and rocket-propelled grenades.[12] Palestinian militias have conducted over 75 attacks targeting Israeli forces in and around the hospital since Israeli forces returned to the area on March 18. This high rate of attack indicates that Palestinian militia elements in the area remain combat effective, despite continued Israeli clearing efforts in Gaza City. At least six Palestinian militias have participated in the recent attacks targeting Israeli forces in and around al Shifa Hospital.

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on March 28. Israeli aircraft conducted a strike targeting a cell of Palestinian fighters approaching the Nahal Brigade in the central Gaza Strip.[13] The IDF said that it destroyed a 2.5-kilometer-long tunnel used by Hamas to connect the northern and southern Gaza Strip on March 28.[14] Israeli forces used over 30 tons of explosives to destroy the tunnel.

Israeli forces continued clearing operations in al Amal neighborhood, western Khan Younis on March 28. The IDF launched a second clearing operation in al Amal on March 24.[15] The IDF 98th Division has killed dozens of Palestinian fighters in al Amal during this operation.[16] The IDF Egoz SOF unit detained dozens of Palestinians in al Amal.[17] The Givati Brigade engaged two Palestinian fighters approaching Israeli forces in al Amal. Israeli forces seized hundreds of weapons in al Amal, including grenades, explosively-formed penetrators, small arms.[18]

Hamas engaged Israeli forces during IDF clearing operations in northern Khan Younis on March 28. Hamas fighters detonated explosives that Israeli forces had planted to destroy a building in Qarara. It is not clear how Hamas detonated the explosives. Hamas claimed that the house explosion killed and wounded Israeli forces, but the IDF has not acknowledged casualties from the attack at the time of writing. This attack bears similarity to a Hamas attack in January 2024 that killed 21 Israeli soldiers after the soldiers rigged a building to detonate in the central Gaza Strip. Hamas fighters also separately targeted Israeli armor operating in Qarara with rocket-propelled grenades.[19]

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a department within the Israeli Defense Ministry, said that 205 aid trucks entered the Gaza Strip on March 28.[20] COGAT said that 19 private sector “food” aid trucks reached the northern Gaza Strip without incident.

The US Defense Department is considering funding a private peacekeeping force in the Gaza Strip, according to Politico.[21] The options under consideration will not include the deployment of US servicemembers to the Gaza Strip but could consist of a multinational force or a Palestinian peacekeeping team. Biden administration officials said these talks are part of planning for the "day after” in the Gaza Strip with Israeli officials and other partners. One of Israel’s stated war objectives is the destruction of Hamas’ governance apparatus in the Gaza Strip and the IDF has warned that all members of “the Hamas apparatus,” including Hamas police officers, are legitimate targets.[22]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 27.[23]

An armed Palestinian fired small arms targeting Israeli civilian vehicles near al Auja in the Jordan Valley on March 28, wounding three Israeli civilians.[24] Israeli media reported that the armed man was a security officer for the Palestinian Authority. The armed Palestinian is originally from Jenin.[25] Palestinian channels posted photos of the shooter and identified him as Mohammed Saadia.[26] IDF Central Command Commander Yehuda Fox and other IDF personnel held an ”assessment” of the attack. Fox reported that the IDF is still searching for the attacker at the time of writing.[27]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least 11 attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 27.[28]

The IDF concluded a week-long training exercise on March 27 aimed at increasing IDF Northern Command readiness in northern Israel.[29] The IDF held briefings with Northern Command division, brigade, and battalion commanders to discuss ”operational and strategic plans” for a conflict in northern Israel.[30] IDF Northern Command Commander Major General Ori Gordin said that the IDF will continue to take an ”offensive approach” against Hezbollah and that the IDF is ”determined” to change the security situation in the north so that residents may return to the area.[31]

The IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike in Ras Naqoura in southern Lebanon on March 27, killing two Amal Movement fighters.[32]
The Amal Movement released statements mourning the fighters on the same day.[33]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

Israel likely conducted a series of airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militia and Lebanese Hezbollah positions near Sayyida Zainab, Syria on March 28.[34] Syrian, Israeli, and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated media reported that the IDF air force struck several buildings near Sayyida Zainab, southeast of Damascus, Syria.[35] Syrian and Israeli media noted that Iran-backed militias and Lebanese Hezbollah were using the targeted buildings.[36] Israeli media reported that the strikes possibly killed an unspecified IRGC member.[37] Iranian-backed militia groups and the IRGC maintain a headquarters in Sayyida Zainab and use it to facilitate Iranian efforts throughout Syria.[38]

Israel has conducted at least six other strikes targeting Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated targets inside Syria in March 2024, a notable increase from an average of 1.6 strikes per month between December 2023 and February 2024.[39] The IDF said in February 2024 that it had conducted a series of airstrikes in Syria since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to interdict Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah via Syria.[40]

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian discussed the implementation of gas, electricity, and water supply agreements with senior Turkmen officials in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on March 28, possibly to preempt electricity and water shortages in the summer that could fuel internal unrest.[41] Abdollahian called for the implementation of these and other trade and transit agreements during separate meetings with the Turkmen president, foreign affairs minister, and the Turkmenistan People’s Council chairman. Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkmenistan previously signed a gas swap agreement in November 2021.[42] Senior Iranian officials called for the expeditious implementation of these agreements during their meetings with senior Turkmen officials in May and June 2023.[43] These agreements would allow Iran to use some of the gas it imports from Turkmenistan to supply electricity and heating to its northern provinces. Iranians previously protested power outages in Tehran, Fars, and Mazandaran Provinces in July 2021.[44] The Raisi administration has similarly expressed concern that water shortages could precipitate unrest inside Iran and sought to increase water cooperation with Turkmenistan to address these concerns in May 2023.[45]

The Iraqi Foreign Minister said that the recent Islamic State attack in Moscow shows that ISIS is “resurging and stronger than ever” on March 28.[46] Iranian-backed Iraqi officials have claimed repeatedly that ISIS in Iraq is defeated to publicly justify their efforts to expel US forces from Iraq. The Iranian-backed head of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) claimed on March 3, for example, that ISIS is no longer a threat due to the PMF’s capabilities.[47] Iraqi Prime Minister Shia al Sudani, who is supported by Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, claimed on February 7 and 25 that the international coalition is no longer necessary because ISIS has been defeated.[48] Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein’s comments are notable given their contrast with the statements of Iranian-backed Iraqi officials. Hussein is a Kurdish official and member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which Iranian-backed militias undermined during government formation in 2021 and 2022.[49]

CTP-ISW continues to assess that the United States and its partners in Syria have successfully contained but not defeated ISIS and that a US withdrawal from Syria would very likely cause a rapid ISIS resurgence there within 12 to 24 months.[50] A resurgent ISIS could then threaten Iraq. Iraqi security forces still face significant deficiencies in fire support, intelligence, and logistics that will impede their ability to defeat ISIS alone.[51]

Hussein separately questioned the Islamic Resistance in Iraq’s claimed attacks on Israel on March 28 by stating that he did not know if the attacks were true or for internal propaganda purposes.[52] The IDF has not acknowledged any of the claimed Islamic Resistance in Iraq attacks targeting Israel. Hussein emphasized that only the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces—the Iraqi prime minister—could legitimately authorize the use of weapons inside Iraq. Hussein further said that the only entity with the legal power to declare war in Iraq is the Iraqi Council of Representatives.

US CENTCOM reported that it intercepted four Houthi drones in the Red on March 27 that were “aimed at a US warship.”[53]

Iran Update, March 27, 2024

Click here to read the full report

Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, Kathryn Tyson, Annika Ganzeveld, Alexandra Braverman, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued operating in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Palestinian militias have conducted nearly 70 attacks targeting Israeli forces in and around the hospital since Israeli forces returned to the area on March 18.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces discovered a “significant” tunnel network in al Amal neighborhood in western Khan Younis.
  • Unspecified US and Israeli officials told Axios that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to send two top officials to Washington to discuss a possible Israeli clearing operation into Rafah.
  • Political Negotiations: Three unspecified people familiar with the Israel-Hamas negotiations told CNN that ceasefire talks have reached another stalemate but are continuing.
  • West Bank: The IDF said that it conducted a “counterterrorism” operation around Jenin, highlighting the enduring militia network that exists there.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: The IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike in southern Lebanon, killing at least seven fighters associated with the military wing of a Lebanese Islamist political party Jamaa al Islamiyya.
  • Iraq: Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq Secretary General Mohammad al Tamimi threatened to resume attacks targeting US forces if they do not leave Iraq.
  • The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed two attacks targeting Israeli military infrastructure.
  • Yemen: Senior IRGC Quds Force officer Brig. Gen. Abdol Reza Shahlai directed the initial Houthi attacks targeting vessels around the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea in October 2023, according to Bloomberg, further underscoring the Iranian role in these attacks.
  • Iran: Senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leaders continued their visit to Tehran.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces continued operating in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 27.[1] Israeli forces killed dozens of Palestinian fighters and located unspecified military infrastructure and weapons in the hospital area.[2] Israeli Army Radio reported that the IDF surrounded three buildings in the hospital compound, where approximately 30 senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) personnel are located.[3] The IDF published footage on March 26 of its forces questioning a PIJ fighter, who said that Hamas and PIJ personnel are “scattered in the buildings” at al Shifa Hospital.[4] The IDF published an infographic of three Hamas and PIJ officials detained at the hospital, including a leader in Hamas’ Security and Protection Department.[5]

Most of the Palestinian militia attacks on March 27 targeted Israeli forces in and around al Shifa Hospital.[6] Palestinian militias have conducted nearly 70 attacks targeting Israeli forces in and around the hospital since Israeli forces returned to the area on March 18. This high rate of attack indicates that Palestinian militias retain a significant degree of combat effectiveness in the area, despite continued Israeli clearing efforts around Gaza City. At least six Palestinian militias have participated in the recent attacks targeting Israeli forces in and around al Shifa Hospital.

A Palestinian journalist reported on March 27 that Israeli forces advanced into parts of Zaytoun neighborhood in southwestern Gaza City.[7] The IDF concluded a two-week-long re-clearing of Zaytoun on March 3.[8] The return of Israeli forces to the neighborhood suggests that Palestinian militias continue to operate there similar to how these militias still have a presence in other portions of the northern Gaza Strip.

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on March 27.[9] A Palestinian journalist reported that Israeli forces advanced into unspecified areas east of Bureij.[10] Hamas claimed that its fighters mortared Israeli forces in the area.[11]

The IDF reported on March 27 that Israeli forces discovered a “significant” tunnel network in al Amal neighborhood in western Khan Younis.[12] The IDF said that it used intelligence from questioning detained Palestinian fighters to find three tunnel shafts. The IDF has been conducting a second round of clearing operations in al Amal neighborhood, western Khan Younis, since March 24.[13]

The IDF continued clearing operations in Qarara in northern Khan Younis on March 27.[14]

The IDF published on March 27 footage of an airstrike targeting a Palestinian fighter, who was surveilling Israeli forces in Hamad neighborhood, northern Khan Younis.[15] The IDF said that the fighter was passing information on Israeli troop locations to other Palestinian fighters over a phone.

Unspecified US and Israeli officials told Axios that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to send two top officials to Washington to discuss a possible Israeli clearing operation into Rafah.[16] The Israeli officials are expected to arrive as early as next week. Netanyahu canceled a planned visit of two top Israeli security officials to Washington, DC, on March 25 in response to the United States’ abstention from the UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. Netanyahu said in a statement on March 27 that his reasoning for canceling the Israeli visit was “a message to Hamas: Don’t bet on this pressure, it’s not going to work.”[17] The White House said on March 27 that the Israeli Prime Minister's Office had agreed to reschedule the meeting.[18] Axios reported that Netanyahu is expected to send the Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant discussed a possible Israeli clearing operation into Rafah in a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on March 26.[19] Gallant arrived in Washington, DC, on March 25 to meet with top US diplomatic and military officials. An unnamed senior US Department of Defense official stated that Austin presented to Gallant the broad outlines of the Biden administration’s ”alternative approach” to an Israeli operation into Rafah.[20] This approach included Israel targeting Hamas leadership, creating a plan to evacuate civilians, increasing humanitarian aid into the area, and securing the Gazan-Egyptian border.[21] The official also stated that the Israelis were receptive to these outlines. Gallant told reporters after the meeting that Israel needs “to destroy Hamas as a military and governing organization in Gaza.”[22] He also said that they discussed the issue of aid distribution in the Gaza Strip and noted that Hamas is “sabotag[ing] the delivery of aid.”[23] Unspecified US officials said the two discussed the United States selling F-15 and F-35 fighter jets and Apache helicopter gunships to Israel.[24]

Three unspecified people familiar with the Israel-Hamas negotiations told CNN that ceasefire talks have reached another stalemate but are continuing.[25] An unnamed senior Israeli official familiar with the negotiations in Doha told Israeli media said that Hamas’ response to the latest hostage deal offer was “ridiculous” and that Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, “does not want to move forward with a deal at the moment.”[26] Lebanese media cited unnamed Egyptian sources, who have been in contact with IDF officials, saying that, following the failure of the latest round of negotiations, Israel is unwilling to make any further concessions to Hamas and is preparing for a clearing operation into Rafah after Eid al Fitr or in early May at the latest.[27]

Hamas published on March 27 a video statement of its military commander Mohammad Deif calling for popular marches toward Israel and the Palestinian Territories.[28] Deif stated: “Begin marching now, not tomorrow, toward Palestine, and do not let restrictions, borders, or regulations deprive you of the honor of participating in the liberation of al Aqsa Mosque.”

Israeli media reported on March 27, citing an unspecified Israeli official, that 25 aid trucks reached the northern Gaza Strip without incident.[29] The trucks entered the Gaza Strip through Gate 96, which Israel reportedly opened in early March 2024.[30]

PIJ conducted an indirect fire attack from the Gaza Strip targeting Kissufim in southern Israel on March 27.[31] The IDF acknowledged that the rocket fell in an open area.[32] The IDF Air Force struck the area from which the Palestinian fighters launched the rockets and killed those responsible.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least nine locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 26.[33]

The IDF said that it conducted a “counterterrorism” operation around Jenin on March 27, highlighting the enduring militia network that exists there.[34] The IDF conducted a drone strike during the operation, killing two Palestinian fighters.[35] Israeli forces killed a third Palestinian fighter, who threw IEDs targeting Israeli forces.[36] The IDF also said that it detained two Palestinians, who were driving a vehicle carrying “ready-to-use explosives.”[37] CTP-ISW previously assessed that PIJ and possibly other Palestinian militias have a cell in Jenin for targeting Israeli civilians outside the West Bank.[38]

An Israeli Army Radio journalist reported on March 27 that the IDF will turn the Netzah Yehuda Battalion into a maneuver infantry battalion.[39] The Netzah Yehuda Battalion is an ultra-Orthodox military unit that operates primarily in the West Bank.[40] The journalist said that the battalion will train to conduct maneuver in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.[41] Israeli media reported that some soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion began operating in the Gaza Strip in January 2024.[42] The Israeli government must present legislation aimed at increasing recruitment among the religious community by the end of March, but it has disagreed over drafting ultra-Orthodox Israelis.[43]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 26.[44] Hezbollah fired approximately 30 rockets targeting IDF forces in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel, killing one Israeli civilian and damaging buildings.[45]

The IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike in southern Lebanon on March 27, killing at least seven fighters associated with the military wing of a Lebanese Islamist political party Jamaa al Islamiyya .[46] The IDF and Israeli media reported that the fighters had plotted to infiltrate Shebaa Farms.[47]

Senior Hezbollah official Nawaf al Mousawi said that Hezbollah has increased the rate at which it can stockpile new weapons during an interview with Hezbollah-affiliated media on March 26.[48] Mousawi, who serves as the head of Hezbollah’s Borders and Natural Resources Department, said that the group is now capable of receiving as many weapons in a month as it previously received in six months.[49] Mousawi added that Hezbollah has created new storage facilities and has acquired more accurate missiles for ”naval, ground, and aerial use.” Israel has conducted an air campaign into Syria in recent months to disrupt Iranian efforts to transfer military materiel to Hezbollah. Mousawi also said that Israel is facing logistical challenges and would not be able to strike Lebanon or the Gaza Strip if not for US weapons shipments.[50]

The IDF approved a new training program to increase the Air Force’s readiness around northern Israel.[51] The IDF said that the Air Force has conducted military training exercises over recent weeks.[52] The exercises include "massive, long-range strikes, flights deep in enemy territory, decision-making in war conditions. . . and surprise exercises will be held for the various units."[53] The IDF said that the training will not interrupt the Air Forces’ operations in the Gaza Strip or other areas.

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq claimed on March 26 that unidentified actors conducted a drone attack targeting US forces at Conoco Mission Support Site in eastern Syria.[54] The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights similarly reported that US forces intercepted a drone in the area on March 26.[55] CTP-ISW cannot verify whether any attack occurred, however.

Iran and its Axis of Resistance remains committed to expelling the United States from the Middle East—by force is necessary—regardless of whether the reported attack on March 26 occurred. CTP-ISW has previously warned that the current lull in Iranian-backed Iraqi militia attacks does not indicate a change in the long-term Iranian and Iranian-backed effort to force the United States from the region.[56] Iranian-backed Iraqi militias retain the capability to resume attacks targeting US forces at any time and for any reason of their choosing.

Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq Secretary General Mohammad al Tamimi threatened during a Newsweek interview published on March 27 to resume attacks targeting US forces if they do not leave Iraq.[57]Tamimi threatened that Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq will target and kill US service members “if an agreement is not achieved” between Baghdad and Washington. Tamimi was referring to ongoing discussions between the United States and Iraq to transition to a bilateral security partnership.[58]  Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq has reported ties to Iranian-backed Iraqi militias Asaib Ahl al Haq and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba.[59] Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq also proclaims to adhere to Velayat-e Faqih, which is a core tenet of Iranian governance that enshrines the position of a senior cleric at the head of the regime.[60]

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed two attacks targeting Israeli military infrastructure on March 26.[61] The group claimed to target the Sapir military facility on the Sea of Galilee, northern Israel, with one-way attack drones and Ovda Airbase in Eilat, southern Israel, with unspecified munitions. CTP-ISW has previously observed that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq has transitioned to conducting regular attacks targeting Israel in March 2024 rather than US forces in Iraq and Syria.[62] The group has not claimed any attacks targeting US forces since February 4.[63]

US Department of Defense Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh confirmed that the United States was not responsible for a series of airstrikes on March 25 that targeted Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and IRGC-affiliated positions in eastern Syria.[64] CTP-ISW previously noted that Israel was likely responsible for the strike.[65]

Senior IRGC Quds Force officer Brig. Gen. Abdol Reza Shahlai directed the initial Houthi attacks targeting vessels around the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea in October 2023, according to Bloomberg, further underscoring the Iranian role in these attacks.[66] Bloomberg cited informed sources. Shahlai’s involvement reflects the prominent role that Iran has had in directing and supporting the Houthi attack campaign targeting commercial and military vessels off the coast of Yemen. CTP-ISW has previously noted the Iranian role in providing targeting intelligence to the Houthis.[67]

Shahlai is the seniormost IRGC Quds Force responsible for the Yemen portfolio but also has an extensive background coordinating other clandestine Iranian activities globally.[68] Shahlai has helped arm and fund Iranian-backed Iraqi militias and supported their attacks targeting US and coalition forces in Iraq. Shahlai planned, for instance, an attack that killed five US services members and wounded three others in Karbala in 2007.[69] He also directed and funded the attempted assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States in Washington, DC, in 2011.[70] The United States attempted to kill Shahlai the same evening as the US airstrike that killed IRGC Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.[71] The US Treasury Department designated Shahlai as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2011.[72]

Senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leaders continued their visit to Tehran on March 27. Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh and PIJ Secretary General Ziyad al Nakhalah separately traveled to Tehran on March 26.[73] Haniyeh met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on March 26.[74] Haniyeh also presented a report on “current events and prospects” in the Gaza Strip during a meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on March 27.[75] The Hamas readout of Haniyeh and Raisi’s meeting noted that the two officials discussed the "conditions” facing Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank.[76] Haniyeh’s visit to Tehran marks his second trip to Iran since the Israel-Hamas war began.[77]

Iranian media has notably published no reports about meetings between Nakhalah and Iranian officials. Nakhalah has almost certainly engaged Iranian officials since arriving in Tehran or will do so before he leaves. The lack of relevant media coverage is bizarre, especially given the opportunity for the Iranian regime to broadcast publicly its support for the Palestinian militias by having state media cover Nakhalah’s visit. The media silence could indicate that Nakhalah is holding meetings with officials that the Iranian regime does not wish to publicize.

IRGC Ground Forces Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pak Pour visited IRGC Ground Forces units in southeastern Iran on March 27.[78] It is unclear which units Pak Pour visited, although the IRGC Ground Forces has at least four brigades in the southeastern region.[79] Pak Pour’s visit comes amid an uptick in anti-regime militancy in southeastern Iran since December 2023. Jaish al Adl—a Balochi, Salafi-jihadi group operating around the Iran-Pakistan border—has conducted at least five attacks targeting Iranian security personnel since December 2023.[80] The Afghan branch of the Islamic State separately conducted a terrorist attack in Kerman Province in early January 2024, killing over 90 individuals.[81]

Iran Update, March 26, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Ashka Jhaveri, Alexandra Braverman, Amin Soltani, Johanna Moore, Kathryn Tyson, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET 

Senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) officials have traveled to Iran likely to coordinate their ongoing efforts against Israel in the Gaza Strip and across the Middle East. Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh and PIJ Secretary General Ziyad al Nakhalah both arrived in Tehran on March 26.[1] Haniyeh met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian to discuss the war. Nakhalah spoke at a religious rally at Azadi Stadium in Tehran and will likely meet with senior Iranian officials thereafter.[2] The simultaneous visits of both Haniyeh and Nakhalah are noteworthy, as Iranian leaders have repeatedly emphasized the need for greater cohesion among Palestinian militias fighting Israel. Their visits are also noteworthy given that Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” will celebrate Quds Day—an annual anti-Israel holiday—on April 5 and will almost certainly use the occasion to broadcast the strength and unity of the Axis of Resistance.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei emphasized the importance of using information operations, especially in the context of the Israel-Hamas war, on March 26. Khamenei asserted that influencing the information space and using it against adversaries can be just as effective as military strength during a meeting with Iranian poets in Tehran.[3] Khamenei further stated that all “war is a media war” and that whichever actor has greater media influence will achieve their goals. Khamenei especially praised Palestinian militias’ media efforts in shaping public attitudes and narratives in the Muslim world during his meeting with Haniyeh.[4] Khamenei boasted that Palestinian militias’ media outlets have outperformed the Israeli media throughout the Israel-Hamas war. This emphasis on achieving informational effects to win wars is not entirely new; Khamenei has long stressed the need for Iran to fight a “soft war” against its adversaries. This soft war concept involves the use of information operations and psychological warfare to influence public perceptions.[5] Khamenei’s recent statements are, nevertheless, significant, as they are consistent CTP-ISW's assessment that the Iranian regime is trying to exploit the Israel-Hamas war to try to isolate Israel in the Middle East.

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Senior Hamas and PIJ officials have traveled to Iran likely to coordinate their ongoing efforts against Israel in the Gaza Strip and across the Middle East.
  • Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei emphasized the importance of using information operations, especially in the context of the Israel-Hamas war.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias continued to defend against Israeli clearing operations around Beit Hanoun, northeastern Gaza Strip.
  • Palestinian militias have launched most of their indirect fire attacks into Israel from the northern and central Gaza Strip since January 2024.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued clearing operations in western and northern Khan Younis.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations in the West Bank.
  • Northern Israel and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah fired unspecified weapons targeting the IDF Mount Meron air traffic control base in northern Israel. The IDF Air Force conducted airstrikes targeting Hezbollah military infrastructure in Zboud, Bekaa Valley.
  • Iraq: Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister Fuad Hussein said that the United States and Iraq will remain partners in the fight against ISIS,
  • Syria: Israel was likely responsible for a series of airstrikes targeting Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and IRGC-affiliated positions in eastern Syria.
  • Yemen: The Houthis claimed that they conducted five drone and missile attacks targeting civilian and military vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea over the previous 72 hours.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian militias continued to defend against Israeli clearing operations around Beit Hanoun, northeastern Gaza Strip, on March 26. CTP-ISW previously assessed on March 25 that a small number of Palestinian fighters have likely infiltrated Beit Hanoun.[6] Hamas then published on March 26 footage of its fighters firing an anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) targeting Israeli armor in Beit Hanoun.[7] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the war, claimed that its fighters around Beit Hanoun intercepted an Israeli reconnaissance drone and mortared Israeli forces east of the area.[8] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades may have targeted IDF units involved in establishing the buffer zone between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The IDF has moved its forces to a buffer zone along the Israeli border as part of its third phase of military operations in the Gaza Strip.[9]

Hamas mortared Israeli forces advancing on the outskirts of Tuffah neighborhood, eastern Gaza City.[10] Tuffah is south of Beit Hanoun. 

Israeli forces continued clearing operations in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 26. Two IDF brigades as well as Israeli special operations forces engaged several Palestinian fighters in the hospital area.[11] Palestinian militias similarly attacked Israeli forces in the vicinity of al Shifa Hospital.[12] The IDF published footage of its forces questioning a PIJ fighter, who said he had been staying at al Shifa Hospital for three months.[13] Israeli forces initially expanded clearing operations to al Shifa Hospital in November 2023, targeting a sophisticated Hamas tunnel network underneath the hospital.[14] The IDF withdrew from the hospital area on November 24 but resumed clearing operations there on March 18.[15]

A Palestinian journalist reported that the IDF is moving northwestward from al Shifa Hospital toward al Shati refugee camp.[16] Hamas published footage on March 25 of its fighters firing RPGs targeting Israeli forces northwest of al Shifa Hospital.[17] The IDF concluded a two-week re-clearing of al Shati camp on February 15.[18]

Hamas claimed two attacks targeting Israeli forces in Tal al Hawa neighborhood, southwestern Gaza City, on March 26.[19] A Palestinian journalist reported that Israeli forces were operating in Zahra neighborhood, which is southwest of Tal al Hawa.[20]

Israeli forces continued clearing operations in western and northern Khan Younis on March 26.[21] The IDF have been conducting a second round of clearing operations in al Amal neighborhood, western Khan Younis, since March 24.[22] Israeli forces are also operating in Qarara, northern Khan Younis.[23] Israeli forces located IEDs, grenades, unspecified vests, and ammunition during the operations. Several Palestinian militias engaged Israeli forces in western and northern Khan Younis on March 26.[24]

An unspecified informed source told Reuters on March 26 that ceasefire negotiations have continued between Israel and Hamas and that senior Mossad officials remain in Qatar for related discussions.[25] The source noted that a small team of Israeli personnel are returning to Israel for consultations. The report follows speculation that Israel withdrew its delegation from Qatar.[26]

Palestinian militias have launched most of their indirect fire attacks into Israel from the northern and central Gaza Strip since January 2024. An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported on March 26 a summary of indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip.[27] The correspondent noted a general decrease in the number of attacks since January, which is consistent with CTP-ISW's tracking of indirect fire. Palestinian militias launched nearly half of all attacks from the northern Gaza Strip in January and nearly half of all attacks from the central Gaza Strip in March 2024.[28] The correspondent hypothesized why there have not been attacks from the southern Gaza Strip, highlighting the intense fighting in Khan Younis and the continued rocket capabilities of Hamas in the south, where Israeli forces have not concentrated their operations.[29] Palestinian militias continued ability to launch attacks from the northern Gaza Strip is consistent with the infiltration of fighters into the area and Hamas’ intentions to reassert itself following Israeli withdrawals. Israeli forces have not expanded clearing operations to the entirety of the central Gaza Strip, where Hamas maintains four local battalions.[30]

Palestinian fighters have conducted at least two indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 25.[31] PIJ launched rockets targeting Ashkelon. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which is a leftist Palestinian militia aligned with Hamas in the war, mortared an Israeli military site in southern Israel.

The IDF said that Palestinian fighters launched rockets targeting Ashdod from a civilian area of Deir al Balah on March 25.[32] The IDF Air Force conducted airstrikes targeting the launch areas in Deir al Balah in response to the attack. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.[33]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 25.[34] Israeli forces detained two wanted individuals in Jenin.[35] PIJ and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed that they conducted separate IED and small arms attacks targeting Israeli forces operating in Jenin.[36] Israeli forces conducted a ”brigade operation” and located and destroyed unspecified explosives in Balata refugee camp in Nablus.[37] The IDF reported that an Israeli soldier shot a Palestinian fighter, who attempted to take the soldier’s weapon in Balata.[38] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and Mujahideen Brigades conducted multiple IED and small arms attacks targeting Israeli forces operating in Balata.[39]

The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in Hebron reported on March 26 that its fighters fired small arms targeting an Israeli settlement north of Hebron.[40] The militia reported that its forces were able to leave the Karmei Tzur settlement following the attack. The IDF reported that the Palestinian militia fighters shot at the settlement from Beit Ummar. Israeli forces conducted an operation in Beit Ummar after the attack and found small arms and ammunition.[41]

PIJ’s Jenin battalion reported on March 25 that its fighters fired small arms targeting Meirav, which is an Israeli town near the border of the West Bank.[42] Israeli media reported on March 24 that unidentified Palestinian fighters shot at Meirav from the adjacent Palestinian village of Jalbun.[43]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least 12 attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 25.[44] Hezbollah fired unspecified weapons targeting the IDF Mount Meron air traffic control base, which has radar, surveillance, communication, and jamming facilities.[45] The IDF reported that the attack caused no damage to the base or injuries to Israeli personnel stationed there.[46] Hezbollah separately fired 50 rockets targeting an Israeli barracks in Yarden.[47] The IDF said that it intercepted several of the rockets and that the remaining rockets landed in open areas.[48] Hezbollah also fired unspecified weapons targeting Avivim, causing a fire in the area.[49]

The IDF Air Force conducted airstrikes targeting Hezbollah military infrastructure in Zboud, Bekaa Valley, on March 26 following the Hezbollah attack targeting Mount Meron.[50] This strike represents the northernmost Israeli attack into Lebanon since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war.[51] The Bekaa Valley contains significant Hezbollah military infrastructure, including training centers, weapons storage sites, and ballistic missile production facilities.[52]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister Fuad Hussein said on March 26 that the United States and Iraq will remain partners in the fight against ISIS.[53] Hussein made the remark during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Hussein and Blinken said that the United States and Iraq are preparing for an upcoming Higher Coordinating Committee meeting. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on January 25 that the US-Iraq Higher Military Commission (HMC), which is comprised of US and Iraqi federal government officials, will soon hold “working group meetings” to evaluate the status of the US-led Global Coalition’s mission to defeat ISIS. The HMC is part of the United States and Iraq’s transition to a bilateral security partnership as described under the 2021 US-Iraqi Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue.[54] Hussein’s meeting with Blinken precedes Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani’s meeting with US President Joe Biden on April 15.[55]

Israel was likely responsible for a series of airstrikes on March 25 targeting Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and IRGC-affiliated positions in eastern Syria.[56] Israeli and Syrian media claimed the strikes resulted in around 30 casualties, including IRGC Quds Force, Lebanese Hezbollah, and unspecified Iranian-backed militia commanders in eastern Syria.[57] There are several unverified Syrian reports claiming that the Israeli attacks injured or killed Hajj Askar, who is the IRGC commander in eastern Syria.[58] The IRGC announced that Israeli strikes killed an IRGC Quds Force and Basij member in eastern Syria.[59]

Israeli media reported that Israel targeted IRGC Quds Force special operation units in eastern Syria in response to recent Iranian attempts to smuggle advanced weapons into the West Bank.[60] The Israeli media cited an unspecified Israeli defense official.[61] Shin Bet announced on March 25 that the IDF seized a “significant amount of advanced arms from Iran” that the IRGC Quds Force had helped smuggle into the West Bank to support Palestinian militia attacks targeting Israel.[62] The Israeli strike in Syria follows several other Israeli strikes on facilities affiliated with Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” in Syria in recent weeks.[63] The IDF has previously acknowledged that it conducted a series of airstrikes in Syria to interdict Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah through Syria after the Israel-Hamas war began.[64]

The Houthis claimed on March 26 that they conducted five drone and missile attacks targeting civilian and military vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea over the previous 72 hours.[65] The Houthis said that they targeted separate commercial vessels flagged by Malta, Panama, Singapore, and the United States. Maersk denied the attack on the US-flagged vessel.[66] The Houthis also claimed that they attacked two unspecified US surface combatants in the Red Sea.[67]

The Houthis claimed that they conducted a missile attack targeting Eilat in southern Israel.[68]

The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated six entities, one individual, and two commercial tankers for facilitating commodity shipments and financial transactions for the IRGC Quds Force, the Houthis, and [69] This is the sixth round of sanctions targeting the Iran-based Said al Jamal network since December 2023. This is a network of front companies and vessels headed by Iran-based, IRGC-backed Houthi financier Said al Jamal.[70] The US Treasury Department previously sanctioned Said al Jamal in June 2021.[71] The sanctions target entities and an individual across five countries. OFAC sanctioned the following commercial vessels:

  • The registered owner of the Panama-flagged Dawn II
  • The Palau-flagged Abyss

OFAC sanctioned the following entities:

  • Liberia-based Hassaleh International Company
  • India-based KNH Shipping Private Limited
  • India-based Melody Shipmanagement Pvt Ltd
  • Kuwait-based Orchidia Regional for General Trading and Contracting Company
  • Kuwait-based Mass Com Group General Trading and Contracting Company WLL
  • Vietnam-based Quoc Viet Marine Transport JSC

OFAC sanctioned the following individual:

  • Lebanon-based Syrian money exchanger Tawfiq Muhammad Said al Law

Iran Update, March 25, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Andie Parry, Annika Ganzeveld, Peter Mills, Kathryn Tyson, Amin Soltani, Ashka Jhaveri, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Shin Bet announced on March 25 that the IDF seized a “significant amount of advanced arms from Iran” that Iran had smuggled into the West Bank to support Palestinian militia attacks targeting Israel.[1] The captured arms included 83 small arms, five anti-tank mines, four grenade launchers, 15 RPGs, and 25 kilograms of plastic explosives.[2] Shin Bet also said that a Fatah official based in Lebanon and affiliated with Lebanese Hezbollah and the IRGC assisted the Iranian effort to smuggle arms into the West Bank, but Shin Bet did not provide further details.[3] Shin Bet added that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force organized the effort to smuggle Iranian weapons into the West Bank, which is consistent with previous Western reporting.[4] The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2023 that Iran is smuggling weapons from Syria through Jordan into the West Bank, citing multiple Jordanian security officials.[5] Other unspecified regional officials told the Journal in October 2023 that the ”vast majority” of weapons going through Jordan ”appear[ed] destined for the West Bank.”[6]

Key Takeaways:

  • West Bank: Shin Bet announced that the IDF seized a “significant amount of advanced arms from Iran” that Iran had smuggled into the West Bank to support Palestinian militia attacks targeting Israel.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: A small number of Palestinian fighters have likely infiltrated Beit Hanoun in the northeastern Gaza Strip.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: The IDF continued a second round of clearing operations in al Amal neighborhood, western Khan Younis.
  • Political Developments: The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution calling for “an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan respected by all parties” in the Gaza Strip.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Syria: Israel likely conducted an airstrike targeting an Iranian-backed militia- and Syrian Arab Army (SAA)-controlled military site near Damascus, Syria.
  • Iran: The Iranian regime is continuing to exploit the Israel-Hamas war to try to politically isolate Israel in the Middle East. IRGC-affiliated media published images of Iranian protesters in Tehran on March 24 who were calling on Turkey to stop food and oil exports to Israel.
  • Yemen: The Houthi movement threatened to attack oil installations in Saudi Arabia if Saudi Arabia allowed the United States to use Saudi airspace to strike the Houthis, which is probably a Houthi attempt to pressure Saudi Arabia into discouraging US airstrikes targeting Houthi military assets in Yemen.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

A small number of Palestinian fighters have likely infiltrated Beit Hanoun in the northeastern Gaza Strip. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the war, reported that its fighters conducted three attacks targeting Israeli forces between March 22 and 24.[7] Hamas fighters targeted Israeli armor with rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) northeast of Beit Hanoun on March 24.[8] There are at least seven Palestinian militias, including Hamas, contesting Israeli operations in other areas of the northern Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) acknowledged on March 24 that its forces are operating near Beit Hanoun, noting that the IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike on a target in Beit Hanoun that “posed a threat to the forces operating in the area.”[9] Israeli forces have conducted multi-week operations in other areas of the northern Gaza Strip to reclear those areas of Palestinian fighters and military infrastructure.

Israeli forces continued operations in and around al Shifa Hospital, Gaza City, on March 25. An IDF spokesperson said that the Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in the hospital.[10] Hagari said that Israeli forces have killed 170 Palestinian fighters during engagements in and around the hospital.[11] Israeli forces found ammunition and weapons stored in several rooms in al Shifa hospital.[12] The IDF also said that Israeli forces have detained 500 fighters affiliated with either Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).[13] Hagari called the al Shifa Hospital operation “one of the most successful operations since the start of the war,” citing the hundreds of Palestinian fighters detained.[14]

Palestinian militias concentrated their attacks targeting Israeli forces on March 25 at al Shifa Hospital. Palestinian fighters conducted at least nine attacks targeting Israeli forces in the area.[15] Hamas claimed that its fighters fired a rocket-propelled grenade and completely ”burned“ an Israeli tank close to the hospital.[16] The IDF said that Hamas continued to mortar Israeli forces at al Shifa Hospital.[17]

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued clearing operations in the central and northern Gaza Strip on March 25. The Nahal Brigade killed a Palestinian fighter who was emerging from a tunnel shaft to target Israeli forces in the central Gaza Strip.[18] The Nahal Brigade is also operating at al Shifa Hospital.[19]

The IDF continued a second round of clearing operations in al Amal neighborhood, western Khan Younis, on March 25. The IDF previously operated in al Amal in February and early March 2024 before shifting ground operations to northern Khan Younis.[20] The IDF 98th Division isolated al Amal on March 24 and 25 before conducting raids on militia infrastructure there.[21] Israeli forces killed over 20 Palestinian fighters and seized military equipment during the operation.[22] Israeli forces questioned dozens of Palestinian suspects in al Amal.[23] The Palestinian Red Cresent reported that Israeli forces ordered doctors and patients to evacuate al Amal hospital on March 24.[24] Palestinian militias did not claim attacks on Israeli forces operating in Khan Younis on March 25.

An Israeli Army Radio correspondent said that the IDF's re-clearing in al Amal is similar to the Israeli operations in the northern Gaza Strip since early 2024.[25] These operations are all consistent with the IDF’s ”third phase” of operations in the Gaza Strip, which involves ending major combat operations, releasing reservists, transitioning to “targeted raids,” and establishing a security buffer zone within the Gaza Strip.[26] The IDF announced the ”third phase” in early 2024.[27]

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution on March 25 calling for “an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan respected by all parties” in the Gaza Strip.[28] The US abstained from the vote.[29] US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on March 25 that the US decision to abstain on the UNSC resolution “does not represent a shift in our policy.”[30] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a March 25 visit of two top Israeli security officials to Washington, DC, in response to the United States’ abstention.[31] US President Joe Biden requested that the Israeli delegation meet with US officials to discuss Israeli plans for a ground operation in Rafah.[32]

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant arrived in Washington, D.C., on March 25 to meet with top US military and diplomatic officials despite the US decision to abstain.[33] Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz and Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz both signaled the UNSC resolution would not impact Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip.[34]

Hamas praised the UNSC resolution and affirmed its ”readiness to engage in an immediate prisoner exchange process.”[35] Hamas also called for the UNSC to ”pressure” Israel to adhere to the ceasefire resolution.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a department within the Israeli Defense Ministry, said that 203 humanitarian aid trucks entered the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours.[36] COGAT reported that 22 of the 203 trucks entered the northern Gaza Strip.[37] Unspecified people looted some of the trucks, according to Israeli media.[38]

Palestinian militias have conducted three indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on March 24.[39] Hamas fired eight rockets targeting Ashdod.[40] This attack is the first rocket salvo targeting Ashdod since mid-January 2024.[41] Israel intercepted two of the rockets and six more landed in open areas.[42] PIJ and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a secular leftist Palestinian group fighting alongside Hamas in the war, conducted a combined rocket attack targeting Beeri, southern Israel on March 24.[43] PIJ also fired rockets targeting Sderot on March 25.[44]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces have clashed with Palestinian fighters in at least nine locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 24.[45] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed at least four attacks targeting the IDF in Nablus Governorate.[46] The group also separately claimed attacks targeting Israeli forces in Jenin, Tulkarm, Hebron and near Jerusalem.[47] Israeli forces arrested seven wanted Palestinians across the West Bank on March 25.[48]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 24.[49]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

Israel likely conducted an airstrike on March 24 targeting an Iranian-backed militia- and Syrian Arab Army (SAA)-controlled military site near Damascus, Syria.[50] Israel has likely conducted three other airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed militia, SAA, and Lebanese Hezbollah facilities in Syria in March 2023.[51] The IDF previously said in February 2024 that it had conducted a series of airstrikes in Syria since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to interdict Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah through Syria.[52]

IRGC Deputy Coordinator Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naghdi reiterated recent regime rhetoric that Israel must be prepared for greater Palestinian attacks against it.[53] Naghdi threatened Israel on March 25, stating that Israel has “prepared the ground for an incident” worse than the October 7 attack and exposed itself to this risk by intensifying its attacks on Palestinians. Naghdi also warned in the same statement that “the people of the region” may soon “hang American soldiers from electric poles in the streets of Baghdad and Manama.” This inflammatory rhetoric is typical for Naghdi and likely does not indicate any shift in Iranian policy or strategic calculus. Tehran Interim Friday Prayer Leader Mohammad Javad Haj Ali Akbari similarly said during Friday prayers on March 22 that Israel must be prepared for a “second, third, and fourth” October 7-style attack.[54] The Iranian supreme leader appoints Friday prayer leaders, but these clerics are not critical to regime decision-making.[55]

The Iranian regime is continuing to exploit the Israel-Hamas war to try to politically isolate Israel in the Middle East. IRGC-affiliated media published images of Iranian protesters in Tehran on March 24 who were calling on Turkey to stop food and oil exports to Israel. The protesters were demonstrating against Israel’s ongoing operations in al Shifa Hospital.[56] Iranian state media published a separate report in November 2023 highlighting student protesters in front of the Turkish Embassy in Tehran who were demonstrating against Turkey’s economic ties with Israel.[57] Iranian officials and media have repeatedly pressured Muslim countries, particularly Turkey and Azerbaijan, to sever economic and political ties with Israel since the Israel-Hamas war began.[58] Azerbaijan supplies approximately 40 percent of Israel’s oil, much of which passes through Turkey on its way to Israel.[59]

The Iranian rial depreciated to a record low of 613,500 rials to one US dollar on March 24.[60] The value of the rial was 32,000 rials to one US dollar when Iran and the United States signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in July 2015.[61] The rial has depreciated since the United States withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and has lost more than half of its value since the start of the Mahsa Amini protest movement in September 2022.[62]

The Iranian Law Enforcement Command (LEC) arrested a Jaish al Adl militant on Qeshm Island, Hormozgan Province, Iran, on March 25.[63] Jaish al Adl is a Baloch Salafi-jihadi group that operates along the Iranian border with Pakistan. The arrest of a Jaish al Adl member on Qeshm Island is notable given that Jaish al Adl militants typically operate in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan Province that borders Pakistan. The Iranian Law Enforcement Command (LEC) arrested two men in Hormorzgan Province in late February 2024 who it accused of being part of Sipah Sahaba, which is a prominent Sunni militant organization that originated in Pakistan.[64] The LEC arrested one of the Sipah Sahaba members on Qeshm Island and the other in Bandar Abbas.[65]

Unspecified “armed men” shot and killed an Iranian border guard near Mirjaveh, Sistan and Baluchistan Province, Iran, on March 25.[66] Iranian state media reported that the “armed men” entered Iran from Pakistan.[67] This incident is part of an uptick in militancy and insecurity in southeastern Iran since December 2023. Jaish al Adl has conducted at least five attacks targeting Iranian security personnel since December 2023.[68] The Afghan branch of the Islamic State separately conducted a terrorist attack in Kerman Province in early January 2024, killing over 90 individuals.[69]

Iran displayed its Shahed 149 or “Gaza” drone during the March 4 to 6 Doha International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference.[70] Iran unveiled the drone in May 2021. Iran claims that the drone has a range of 2,000 kilometers and can carry up to 13 precision-guided munitions. The Wall Street Journal reported on March 23 that the display marked the first time Iran has showcased the drone outside Iran since the IRGC Aerospace Force unveiled it in May 2021. The Wall Street Journal reported that Qatari and Sudanese officials expressed interest in Iranian weapons systems, including small arms, during their visit to the exhibition. Iran has reportedly supplied drones to Sudan since at least 2019.[71] Iranian officials also recently expressed interest in increasing defense exports to Qatar.[72] Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani said on March 13 that Iran seeks to develop greater defense cooperation with Armenia, Qatar, Russia, and Turkey.[73] Iran uses its defense exports to expand its military influence abroad and to generate revenue for the Iranian economy.

 

The Houthi movement threatened to attack oil installations in Saudi Arabia if Saudi Arabia allowed the United States to use Saudi airspace to strike the Houthis, which is probably a Houthi attempt to pressure Saudi Arabia into discouraging US airstrikes targeting Houthi military assets in Yemen.[74] Key Houthi powerbroker and Supreme Political Council member Mohammed Ali al Houthi said on March 24 that the Houthis would target oil installations in Saudi Arabia if the country allowed the United States to use Saudi airspace to strike the Houthis.[75] Mohammad Ali al Houthi added that the ongoing negotiations between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis are a “de-escalation, not a truce,” and that Saudi Arabia must take more serious steps towards a truce.[76]

Iran Update, March 24, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Andie Parry, Annika Ganzeveld, Peter Mills, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

CORRECTION: CTP-ISW inaccurately reported on March 23 that the IDF had concluded its operation at al Shifa Hospital. This operation is still ongoing, and the IDF did not report on March 23 that the operation had al Shifa had ended.

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) engaged Palestinian militias north of Gaza City, including in Beit Hanoun.
  • Israeli forces continued operations near al Shifa Hospital, Gaza City, on March 24. CTP-ISW inaccurately reported on March 23 that the IDF had concluded its operation at al Shifa Hospital. This operation is still ongoing, and the IDF did not report on March 23 that the operation had al Shifa had ended.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: The IDF launched a second clearing operation in al Amal, western Khan Younis, on March 24.
  • Lebanon: The IDF conducted an airstrike targeting a Hezbollah “weapons workshop” in Baalbek, the Bekaa Valley, on March 23 following a Hezbollah attack targeting an Israeli air defense site in northern Israel.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces have clashed with Palestinian fighters in at least nine locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 23.
  • Yemen: The Houthis launched five anti-ship ballistic missiles targeting the Panamanian-flagged, Chinese-owned, and Chinese-operated oil tanker Huang Pu in the Red Sea on March 23.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) engaged Palestinian militias north of Gaza City. Local Palestinian sources reported that Israeli armor entered eastern Beit Hanoun on March 23.[1] The IDF acknowledged on March 24 that its forces are operating in Beit Hanoun, saying that the IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike on a target in Beit Hanoun that “posed a threat to the forces operating in the area.”[2] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the war, targeted Israeli armor with a rocket-propelled grenade east of Beit Hanoun on March 23.[3] The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which is a leftist Palestinian militia aligned with Hamas in the war, reported its fighters detonated an improvised explosive device targeting Israeli armor in al Shati Camp, northern Gaza City on March 23.[4]

Israeli forces continued operations near al Shifa Hospital, Gaza City, on March 24.[5] The IDF said that it confirmed 480 of the 800 detainees it detained at al Shifa Hospital are linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas.[6] The IDF 401st Brigade (162nd Division) and Israeli special operations forces seized weapons, destroyed militia infrastructure, and engaged Palestinian fighters in the al Shifa Hospital area over the past 24 hours.[7] Palestinian militias conducted at least nine attacks targeting Israeli armor and infantry near al Shifa Hospital.[8] Hamas targeted three Israeli tanks with explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) and rocket-propelled grenades south of al Shifa Hospital on March 23.[9]

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued clearing operations in the central and northern Gaza Strip on March 24. The Nahal Brigade raided a drone manufacturing site belonging to the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a Palestinian militia aligned with Hamas in the war, in the central Gaza Strip and killed Palestinian fighters guarding the site.[10] The DFLP targeted Israeli armor south of Deir al Balah with rocket-propelled grenades.[11]

The IDF launched a second clearing operation in al Amal, western Khan Younis, on March 24. The IDF previously operated in al Amal in February and early March 2024 before shifting ground operations to northern Khan Younis.[12] The IDF said that the IDF and Shin Bet redeployed to al Amal based on intelligence that Palestinian militias were using civilian infrastructure there for military purposes.[13] The IDF said that the clearing operations will continue to dismantle militia infrastructure and target remaining Palestinian fighters.[14] The IDF Air Force conducted approximately 40 airstrikes on militia targets to assist the IDF 89th Commando Brigade, Givati Brigade, and the 7th Brigade’s maneuver into al Amal.[15] Local Palestinian sources reported that the IDF isolated al Nasser Hospital and al Amal Hospital in northern al Amal on the early morning of March 24.[16] The IDF issued a statement that called on Hamas to ”stop using hospitals and other civilian facilities as a shield.”[17] Palestinian Islamic Jihad said that its fighters targeted Israeli armor with rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank guided missiles, and small arms in the al Amal area on March 24.[18]

The IDF 7th Brigade and Kfir Brigade continued clearing operations in Qarara, northern Khan Younis, on March 24.[19] The brigades killed Palestinian fighters near the Israel-Gaza Strip border and targeted a meeting site for Hamas fighters in Qarara.[20] Israeli forces seized weapons caches and an IDF helicopter struck a tunnel shaft in Qarara.[21] Palestinian militias did not claim attacks targeting Israeli forces in Qarara on March 24.

Palestinian militias did not conduct indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on March 24.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces have clashed with Palestinian fighters in at least nine locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 23.[22]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 23.[23]

The IDF conducted an airstrike targeting a Hezbollah “weapons workshop” in Baalbek, the Bekaa Valley, on March 23 following a Hezbollah attack targeting an Israeli air defense site in northern Israel.[24] This is the fourth time that the IDF has conducted airstrikes in the Bekaa Valley since October 7.[25] The Bekaa Valley is an area that contains significant Hezbollah military infrastructure including training centers, weapons storage sites, and ballistic missile production facilities.[26] Hezbollah claimed that it launched more than 60 rockets targeting IDF headquarters and training grounds in the Golan Heights after the IDF airstrike in Baalbek.[27] Israeli media separately reported that a likely IDF airstrike killed an unspecified Syrian individual in Souairi in the Bekaa Valley on March 24.[28]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed a drone attack targeting the Israeli Defense Ministry on March 23.[29] Israeli officials have not commented on the claimed attack at the time of writing. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq also vowed to “escalate” its attacks during the month of Ramadan, which began on March 10 and ends on April 9.[30]

The Houthis launched five anti-ship ballistic missiles targeting the Panamanian-flagged, Chinese-owned, and Chinese-operated oil tanker Huang Pu in the Red Sea on March 23.[31] The attack caused a fire on the Huang Pu, which the crew quickly extinguished. The Houthis targeted the Huang Pu despite earlier Houthi claims that the group would provide safe passage to Chinese and Russian ships transiting the Red Sea.[32] The Houthis mistakenly launched an anti-ship ballistic missile targeting a tanker south of Yemen carrying Russian oil in early January 2024.[33]

US forces engaged six Houthi drones over the southern Red Sea on March 23.[34] Five of the drones crashed into the Red Sea while the sixth drone flew back into Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. CENTCOM assessed that the drones presented an imminent threat to US, coalition, and commercial vessels in the Red Sea.[35]


Iran Update, March 23, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Johanna Moore, Peter Mills, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET 

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) concluded a weeklong operation in and around al Shifa Hospital on March 23.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters during a raid targeting an unspecified “wanted individual” in Tulkarm in the West Bank on March 22.
  • Lebanon: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least eight attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 22.
  • Yemen: CENTCOM reported that the Houthis launched four anti-ship ballistic missiles into the Red Sea but added that the Houthi attacks did not damage any military or commercial vessels.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) concluded a weeklong operation in and around al Shifa Hospital on March 23.[1] The 401st Brigade (162nd Division) and Israeli special operations forces cleared areas surrounding al Shifa Hospital and arrested fighters who had returned to the hospital.[2] The 401st Brigade raided nearby buildings and seized weapons.[3] The IDF also established an evacuation route for civilians to leave the hospital compound.[4] Israeli forces killed approximately 170 fighters and detained approximately 800 suspects during the operation, which began on March 18.[5]

Palestinian fighters continued to attack Israeli forces that were conducting clearing operations around al Shifa Hospital on March 23.[6]

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on March 23.[7] The IDF reported that the Nahal Brigade engaged in “intense fighting” in unspecified areas of the central Gaza Strip and killed 15 Palestinian fighters. The Nahal Brigade also directed an airstrike targeting Palestinian fighters barricaded in a building.

The 7th Brigade (36th Division) continued clearing operations in Qarara, Khan Younis Governorate, on March 23.[8] The IDF Air Force struck two Palestinian fighters moving toward their forces and targeted a "military building" that belonged to a Hamas fighter in Qarara.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters during a raid targeting an unspecified “wanted individual” in Tulkarm in the West Bank on March 22.[9] Palestinian media separately reported that unspecified Palestinian militia fighters fired small arms targeting an IDF checkpoint near Jenin on March 23.[10]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least eight attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 22.[11]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

US CENTCOM conducted preemptive strikes targeting four Houthi drones and three underground storage facilities in Houthi-controlled Yemen on March 22.[12]

CENTCOM reported separately that the Houthis launched four anti-ship ballistic missiles into the Red Sea but added that the Houthi attacks did not damage any military or commercial vessels.[13]

Iran Update, March 22, 2024

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Ashka Jhaveri, Peter Mills, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, Kathryn Tyson, Elizabeth Volynsky-Lauzon, Rachel Friedman, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

 The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued to conduct an operation in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 22.[1] The IDF 401st and Nahal Brigades (162nd Division) and Israeli special operations forces have killed approximately 150 Palestinian fighters in the hospital area since the operation began on March 18.[2] Palestinian militias focused their attacks in the Gaza Strip on March 22 on Israeli forces al Shifa Hospital.[3] A Palestinian journalist reported that Israeli forces ”intensified” operations in Gaza City east of al Shifa Hospital.[4] Hamas' infiltration into the al Shifa Hospital area after Israel’s initial clearing operation highlights Hamas’ efforts and determination to reestablish itself in the northern Gaza Strip.[5]

Palestinian fighters may be retreating from certain areas of the Gaza Strip during Israeli clearing operations there before reentering those areas after the Israelis depart. Israeli forces are not permanently securing the areas that they clear, which allows Palestinian fighters to return after the IDF leaves. The current clearing operation in and around al Shifa Hospital is the third clearing operation in southern or western Gaza City. Israeli forces have launched new clearing operations in several neighborhoods surrounding al Shifa Hospital three times—including the ongoing operation—since  January. Israeli forces re-cleared al Shati Camp—to the immediate north of al Shifa Hospital—and Rimal neighborhood—where al Shifa Hospital is located—in early February and Zaytoun neighborhood, southeast of Rimal, in late February.[6] Palestinian militias may have temporarily retreated from these areas during the Israeli operations there, as demonstrated by the large number of fighters that Israeli forces have detained during the newest Israeli clearing operation in Rimal focused on al Shifa Hospital, which began on March 18.

Palestinian militias may be maintaining at least one VBIED cell near Tubas. Hamas fighters detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) targeting an IDF bulldozer in Tubas during an Israeli raid on March 21.[7] Palestinian fighters have deployed at least three VBIEDs targeting Israeli forces in the northern West Bank in 2024, including two VBIEDs in Tubas since March 7.[8] CTP-ISW previously noted on March 7 that the two VBIED attacks on and prior to March 7 suggested the existence of a VBIED cell in the northern West Bank.[9] It is unclear how sophisticated or well-manufactured these VBIEDs are. VBIEDs require significant logistical infrastructure, including dedicated workshops to reassemble cars after technicians take apart the vehicles and pack them with explosives.[10] VBIEDs also require bombmaking facilities, an area to stash the VBIED prior to its deployment, and a security detachment for the workshop and bombmaking facilities. The Palestinian militias in Tubas may be collaborating to assemble and deploy these VBIEDs, given the level of resources and expertise required.

A Hamas sniper wounded seven Israelis near an Israeli settlement in the West Bank on March 22 in a multi-stage ambush.[11] The sniper fired multiple rounds at an Israeli bus near Dolev before engaging the IDF quick reaction force that responded to the attack.[12] The sniper fired at the IDF quick reaction force from a series of pre-prepared firing positions for several hours before an IDF helicopter killed him.[13] The al Aqsa Martyrs‘ Brigades, Palestinian Mujahideen Movement, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine all praised the sniper attack.[14]

The pause in Iranian-backed Iraqi militia attacks does not indicate a change in the long-term Iranian and Iranian-backed proxy objective to expel the United States from the Middle East. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq–an umbrella group of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias–has not conducted attacks targeting US forces in Iraq or Syria for 47 days.[15] IRGC Quds Force Commander Esmail Ghaani ordered the Islamic Resistance in Iraq to pause attacks targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria following the January 28 attack that killed three US service members in northeast Jordan.[16] Iranian-backed Iraqi militias retain the capability to resume attacks targeting US forces at any time for any reason of their choosing. CENTCOM Commander General Michael Kurilla said during a Senate Armed Service Committee Hearing on March 7 that Iran has continued to send arms and funding to its Iraqi militias during the pause in attacks.[17] Iran and its so-called ”Axis of Resistance“ in Iraq have not deviated from their objective to remove US forces from Iraq. Kataib Hezbollah Secretary General Abu Hussein al Hamidawi met with unspecified leaders in Iran‘s ”Axis of Resistance” in Tehran on March 20 and said that the current pause in attacks on US forces does not mark the end of efforts to expel US forces from Iraq.[18]

Key Takeaways:

  1. Gaza Strip: The IDF continued to conduct an operation in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Palestinian fighters may be retreating from certain areas of the Gaza Strip during Israeli clearing operations there before reentering those areas after the Israelis depart.
  2. West Bank: Palestinian militias may be maintaining at least one VBIED cell near Tubas.
  3. Iraq: The pause in Iranian-backed Iraqi militia attacks does not indicate a change in the long-term Iranian and Iranian-backed proxy objective to expel the United States from the Middle East.
  4. Yemen: US CENTCOM and the French Navy intercepted multiple Houthi ballistic missiles and a Houthi naval attack drone in the Red Sea in several separate incidents.
  5. Iran: Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian discussed the Israel-Hamas war in separate phone calls with Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh and PIJ Secretary General Ziyad al Nakhalah.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on March 22.[19] The IDF reported that unspecified Palestinian fighters launched mortars targeting Israeli forces in the central Gaza Strip and Israeli forces responded with artillery fire.[20]

Israeli forces continued clearing operations in Qarara, northern Khan Younis, on March 22. The IDF Air Force struck tunnel shafts and two structures in Qarara that Palestinian fighters had rigged to explode.[21] 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli War Cabinet in Tel Aviv on March 22.[22] Blinken discussed efforts to reach a six-week ceasefire to secure hostages and enable a surge in humanitarian aid. Blinken also briefed the Israeli War Cabinet about efforts he made during his visits to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Cairo, Egypt, to “achieve lasting peace.” Netanyahu said at the end of his meeting with Blinken that there is “no way to defeat Hamas without entering Rafah” and that Israel will “do it alone” if it must.[23] 

Two unspecified US officials told CNN on March 21 that Blinken told Qatar that Hamas must agree to a ceasefire deal or risk getting kicked out of Doha.[24] Several senior Hamas members, including Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh, are based in Doha. CNN noted that Blinken made the comment on March 5 at a time when negotiations between Hamas and Israel had stalled. The officials said that Qatar understood the message and “received it without major pushback.”

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that CIA Director Bill Burns will travel to Doha on March 22 to join ceasefire negotiations.[25] The talks also include Israeli and Egyptian intelligence chiefs and the Qatari prime minister. Israel and Hamas began a new round of negotiations on March 18.[26]

Several Arab and Israeli sources told the Wall Street Journal on March 22 that Israel is developing a plan to distribute aid in the Gaza Strip that “could eventually create a Palestinian-led governing authority” to contest Hamas.[27] The Israeli plan involves distributing the aid via Palestinian leaders and businessmen without links to Hamas who would be recruited by Israel. An Israeli official noted that Hamas’ “vehement opposition” could make the plan unfeasible. Some of this ”vehement opposition” may include Hamas-ordered assassinations targeting Gazan notables. Hamas reportedly killed the head of a large local clan on March 13. Palestinian civilians accused the clan of cooperating with Israel.[28] The Israeli official noted that Hamas can reassert itself due to the governance vacuum that exists in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has already sought to reconstitute militarily and rebuild its governing authority in the northern Gaza Strip after the Israeli drawdown in the Strip that began in December 2023.

Israeli officials are currently debating the issue of humanitarian aid distribution in the Gaza Strip. Israeli media reported on March 8 that Israeli officials have discussed arming civilians in the Gaza Strip to provide security for aid convoys.[29] Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has proposed involving Fatah in the distribution. Netanyahu has shut down proposals for aid distribution involving the Palestinian Authority.[30] Israeli officials have also not yet identified an actor or organization that could lead Gaza in the future, though some Israeli officials have proposed working with local clans.[31] Hamas reportedly killed the head of a local clan in Gaza City on March 13 amid local accusations that the clan was cooperating with Israel.[32] The heads of Palestinian tribes, clans, and families in the Gaza Strip affirmed on March 19 that they are not an alternative to any Palestinian political solution. They added that they denounced Israel, calling Israel an occupier.[33]

Palestinian militias did not conduct indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on March 22. The IDF reported on March 22 that it intercepted a rocket that Palestinian fighters launched on March 21 from the central Gaza Strip into southern Israel.[34] The Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed the March 21 attack.[35] The IDF Air Force conducted airstrikes targeting military infrastructure in the Strip in response to the attack. [36]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces have clashed with Palestinian fighters in at least six locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 21.[37] The al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Hamas, and PIJ separately claimed that they detonated improvised explosive devices (IED) and fired small arms targeting Israeli forces operating in Tubas on March 21 and 22 (see topline for analysis of a VBIED detonation in Tubas during the raid).[38] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades also engaged Israeli forces in Qalqilya and near Nablus.[39] The group threw an IED targeting a civilian bus near Bethlehem and fired small arms at an Israeli settlement near Jenin.[40]  

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 21.[41]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

US CENTCOM and the French Navy intercepted multiple Houthi ballistic missiles and a Houthi naval attack drone in the Red Sea on March 21 in several separate incidents.[42] US CENTCOM intercepted a Houthi naval attack drone in the Red Sea on March 21.[43] CENTCOM also reported that coalition forces intercepted two Houthi ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. A French frigate also intercepted three additional Houthi ballistic missiles over the southern Red Sea.[44]

Houthi-controlled media claimed on March 22 that the United States conducted airstrikes targeting Houthi-controlled Yemeni territory.[45] The outlet said that the strikes targeted al Kadan, Hudaydah Governorate, western Yemen.

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian discussed the Israel-Hamas war in separate phone calls with Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh and PIJ Secretary General Ziyad al Nakhalah on March 21 and 22, respectively. [46] This marks Abdollahian and Haniyeh’s fifth phone call since October 7.[47] Abdollahian last met with Nakhalah in February 2024 during a meeting with leaders of various Palestinian factions in Beirut.[48] 

Tehran Interim Friday Prayer Leader Mohammad Javad Haj Ali Akbari said during Friday prayers on March 22 that Israel must be prepared for a “second, third, and fourth” October 7-style attack.[49] Akbari stated that Muslim countries must prepare for a ”different” Quds Day this year by creating a ”political earthquake” for Israel and its supporters. Quds Day is an anti-Israel holiday started by Iran and will occur on the last Friday of Ramadan, April 5, 2024.[50]

Akbari’s statement reflects the thinking of Iranian leaders on how to defeat Israel. IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami said in 2022 that Palestinian militias needed to focus on successive offensive ground operations into Israel instead of defensive, static wars using their rocket systems.[51] Iran’s leaders theorize that these ground operations will result in mass Israeli emigration and the collapse of the Israeli state. Hamas Political Bureau member Ghazi Hamed seemingly echoed these sentiments in a television interview on November 1, when he said that Hamas would repeat the October 7 attacks “a second, a third, [and] a fourth” time.[52]


Iran Update, March 21, 2024

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Andie Parry, Peter Mills, Annika Ganzeveld, Kathryn Tyson, Alexandra Braverman, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and other Palestinian militias cooperating against Israel have likely established at least one cell in Jenin to target Israeli civilian areas outside of the West Bank. Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man from Jenin carrying a weapon and “ready-to-use explosive device” in Zeita, along the West Bank-Israel barrier, on March 11.[1] The IDF said that the man was en route to conduct a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.[2] A PIJ commander in Jenin organized the attack.[3] PIJ probably received assistance from other Palestinian militias, given PIJ’s role in the Hornets’ Nest operations room and Jenin’s importance as a hub for militia activity. The Hornets’ Nest is a combined operations room that is based in Jenin and led by PIJ, Hamas, and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade.[4] The IDF conducted a “brigade operation” in Jenin on March 13 following the attempted March 11 attack and arrested seven “wanted persons” and captured three improvised explosive devices.[5] The IDF Air Force killed the Palestinian commanders responsible for planning the March 11 attack in a March 20 airstrike that killed several fighters the IDF said were ”attempting to insert a hazard into the heart of Israel.”[6]

The March 20 airstrike likely failed to destroy the Palestinian militia cell responsible for the manufacture, planning, and execution of the attempted March 11 attack. Suicide attacks require a significant logistical tail to manufacture and deploy suicide bombers.[7] These logistical assets include bombmaking facilities, safehouses, and an area in which to mentally prepare the would-be suicide bomber.[8] A single airstrike eliminating leaders of this cell will not cause the cell’s more important assets, such as bombmakers or recruiters, to cease operations. The airstrike may, however, cause a temporary pause or slowdown in operations as the cell reorganizes itself.

Palestinian militias in the West Bank almost certainly maintain additional cells focused on attacking Israel proper. Israeli border police detained a Palestinian man in Jericho on March 21 that Israeli police alleged planned to conduct a suicide bombing attack against an unspecified target.[9] The logistical tail required to manufacture and deploy suicide bombers indicates that this Jericho attack and other unclaimed attempted attacks are not isolated events or attacks by independent individuals.

Palestinian militia presence in Jenin and other West Bank cities along the barrier wall—such as Tulkarm—offer geographic advantages for Palestinian militias that the groups could use to launch attacks into Israel proper. Jenin is only 5km south of the West Bank-Israel barrier, and Tulkarm is immediately adjacent to the Israeli town of Bat Hafer. The IDF “brigade operation” in Tulkarm on March 21 is notable in this context (see West Bank for more on this operation).[10] The IDF’s ability to disrupt militia attacks into Israel proper and eliminate would-be suicide bombers does demonstrate the difficulties faced by Palestinian militias in conducting these attacks, however. Israeli media reported on March 19 that the IDF had established a unit of engineering and intelligence personnel to locate “offensive tunnels” in the West Bank.[11] The report added that the IDF established the unit after residents in Bat Hafer reported hearing “digging noises” under their homes.[12] Both Jenin and Tulkarm have been hotspots of militia activity before and during the current war.[13] The IDF discovered a tunnel under Jenin refugee camp in July 2023 that Palestinian militias were using to transport weapons and hide fighters.[14] The development of tunnels that could cross under the West Bank-Israel barrier points to the threat posed by militias operating near the barrier wall.

Israeli forces continued to conduct an operation in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 21. Israeli special operations forces and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 401st Brigade (162nd Division) killed approximately 50 Palestinian fighters and located ammunition depots near the hospital over the last 24 hours.[15] IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari stated on March 21 that Palestinian fighters remain barricaded in the al Shifa Hospital emergency room and that the Israeli forces are focused on evacuating civilians from the area before clearing the full hospital.[16] The IDF said on March 20 that its forces evacuated 3,700 Gazans to the southern Gaza Strip through a checkpoint near the hospital, detaining 300 of the 3,700 evacuees as suspected fighters.[17] Local Palestinian sources said Israeli forces had evacuated all of Rimal neighborhood, where al Shifa hospital is located.[18] IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said on March 20 that the IDF would continue operations at al Shifa Hospital ”for a few more days.”[19]

Halevi said that Hamas returned to al Shifa hospital and turned it into a command-and-control center as part of Hamas’ efforts to rebuild its governance in the northern Gaza Strip.[20] Local sources also reported Israeli forces raided local government buildings in Rimal neighborhood.[21] Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip aim to destroy both Hamas’ military capabilities and government infrastructure.[22]

Israeli forces detained several high-level Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters at al Shifa Hospital. The IDF spokesperson said on March 21 that Israeli forces detained 600 people, including 358 PIJ and Hamas fighters, since the raid began.[23] The IDF said "very significant" senior Hamas commanders are among those captured but that the IDF would not disclose their identities due to ongoing questioning.[24] Israel said that included among the detainees were Hamas officials responsible for facilitating attacks in the West Bank.[25] The IDF said many PIJ fighters surrendered to Israeli forces as the IDF entered al Shifa hospital.[26] Israeli forces detained PIJ’s Shujaiya Battalion commander, the deputy commander of PIJ's Northern Gaza Brigade, and the PIJ northern Gaza tunnel commander in al Shifa Hospital.[27] Israeli forces also detained two PIJ fighters responsible for intelligence and military communications.[28] IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said during his visit to the hospital on March 20 that the raid at al Shifa Hospital is targeting senior Palestinian militia leaders.[29] Halevi added that the IDF operations are causing “severe damage to Hamas, dismantling Hamas, killing the military leadership, [and damaging] the civilian [Hamas] leadership.”[30]

Four Palestinian militias conducted at least 11 attacks targeting Israeli ground forces near al Shifa Hospital on March 21.[31] The four Palestinian militias reported that their fighters engaged Israeli forces near al Shifa Hospital with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. Three militias also mortared Israeli forces at the hospital.[32]

Key Takeaways:

  • West Bank: Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and other Palestinian militias cooperating against Israel have likely established at least one cell in Jenin to target Israeli civilian areas outside of the West Bank.
  • A March 20 IDF airstrike targeting PIJ fighters coordinating a suicide attack cell in Jenin likely failed to destroy this cell, which was responsible for the manufacture, planning, and execution of an attempted March 11 suicide attack.
  • Palestinian militias in the West Bank almost certainly maintain additional cells focused on attacking Israel proper.
  • Palestinian militia presence in Jenin and other West Bank cities along the barrier wall—such as Tulkarm—offer geographic advantages for Palestinian militias that the groups could use to launch attacks into Israel proper.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to conduct an operation in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 21. Israeli forces detained several high-level Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters at al Shifa Hospital.
  • Iraq: Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada Secretary General Abu Ala al Walai described Israeli maritime ports and airports as “legitimate targets” on March 21.
  • Iran: The US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned three procurement networks across four different countries on March 20 for supporting Iran’s ballistic missile, nuclear, and defense programs.

Iran Update, March 20, 2024

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Ashka Jhaveri, Kathryn Tyson, Andie Parry, Johanna Moore, Annika Ganzeveld, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Kataib Hezbollah Secretary General Abu Hussein al Hamidawi said during a meeting with unspecified leaders in Iran’s so-called “Axis of Resistance” in Tehran on March 20 that the current pause in attacks on US forces does not mark the end of efforts to expel US forces from Iraq. [1] Hamidawi said that he and the unspecified leaders discussed challenges and the timing of “resistance” activity.[2]  He argued that “the politicized and the weak” must be prevented from interfering in this effort.[3] Hamidawi was likely referring to Iraqi Sunni political parties that Iranian-affiliated Iraqi Shia parties have accused of blocking attempts to remove US forces from Iraq.[4]

Israeli forces continued to conduct an operation in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on March 20. Israeli special operations forces and the Israel Defense Forces 401st Brigade (162nd Division) killed approximately 90 Palestinian fighters and located weapons in the hospital area on March 20.[5] An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported that the IDF has apprehended about 350 suspected Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighters in the hospital since the operation began.[6] Israeli forces detained PIJ Political Bureau member Khaled al Batsh during the operation.[7] The IDF noted that several Hamas battalion commanders were at the hospital but added that Gaza City Brigade Commander Izz al Din al Haddad was not present and is still at-large. Haddad is responsible for some of Hamas’ reconstitution efforts.[8]

The Israeli Army Radio reported that the IDF assessed that Hamas may have tried in recent months to rebuild the underground tunnel system under al Shifa Hospital.[9] The report clarified that Hamas could not hide weapons in the rebuilt tunnels and its fighters were unable to use the tunnels to exfiltrate from the hospital area. Israeli forces initially expanded clearing operations to al Shifa Hospital in November 2023.[10] An Israeli think tank analyst told the RAND Corporation in 2016 that during previous operations the IDF found that the Gaza Strip’s sandy soil means that tunnels are difficult to rebuild.[11] Hamas and PIJ’s decision to use al Shifa to launch and direct operations after Israel’s initial clearing operations illustrates that Hamas will resume operations in areas without an Israeli presence, however.

Key Takeaways:

  • Iraq: Kataib Hezbollah Secretary General Abu Hussein al Hamidawi said during a meeting with unspecified leaders in Iran’s so-called “Axis of Resistance” in Tehran that the current pause in attacks on US forces does not mark the end of efforts to expel US forces from Iraq.
  • Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to conduct an operation in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
  • Negotiations: Hamas’ senior representative to Lebanon Osama Hamdan said on March 20 that Israel responded negatively to Hamas’ ceasefire proposal.
  • West Bank: The IDF Air Force killed four Palestinian fighters, including two low-level PIJ leaders, in a drone strike in the Jenin refugee camp.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: The IDF said that it has degraded Hezbollah’s ability to transfer weapons since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war.
  • Yemen: The Houthi supreme leader said on March 15 that the Houthis intend to target international shipping transiting the Indian Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope. This statement is likely aspirational given the current maximum range of Houthi weapon systems, which is roughly 2,200km.
  • Iran: Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei acknowledged the Iranian government’s shortcomings in “controlling inflation” and economic production during his Nowruz speech.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

The IDF 215th Artillery Brigade (162nd Division) directed an airstrike targeting six Palestinian fighters in Jabalia on March 20.[12] Israeli forces previously struck Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) infrastructure in Jabalia on March 6 after Palestinian fighters launched rockets into Israel from Jabalia.[13]

Palestinian militias continued attempts to disrupt Israeli ground operations in Gaza City on March 20. Several militias reported that their fighters engaged Israeli forces near al Shifa Hospital with small arms.[14] Hamas published footage of its fighters targeting Israeli armor south of al Shifa Hospital with RPGs.[15] Palestinian sources reported engagements between Palestinian fighters and Israeli forces west of al Shifa Hospital.[16]

Israeli forces continued clearing operations in Qarara, northern Khan Younis, on March 20. The IDF 7th Brigade (36th Division) killed two Palestinian fighters in the area and attacked military infrastructure.[17] Hamas fighters targeted Israeli infantrymen breaching a tunnel in Qarara by rigging the tunnel entrance to explode.[18] PIJ fighters also mortared Israeli forces in Qarara.[19] Israeli forces have been operating in  Qarara since March 3.[20]

The IDF Air Force killed five senior members of Hamas’ Emergency Committees in Rafah.[21] Israeli media reported that the Emergency Committees are Hamas organizations that are responsible for maintaining public order and civil control.[22] The IDF reported that the five members killed in this strike helped Hamas maintain Hamas control on the ground.[23] They worked to preserve Hamas’ organizational structure in humanitarian areas and were responsible for all Hamas activities including contact with Hamas fighters. The IDF killed the chair of the committees in Rafah last week.[24]

The White House requested that an Israeli delegation visit Washington next week to discuss alternatives to an Israeli ground operation in Rafah.[25] Two unspecified US officials told Axios on March 20 that one alternative is to delay a military operation in Rafah and instead focus on stabilizing the humanitarian situation in the northern Gaza Strip.[26] Another alternative is to focus first on securing the Egyptian side of the Egypt-Gaza Strip border as part of a combined US-Egyptian-Israeli plan. Israel confirmed that it will send a delegation to Washington.[27] The New York Times reported on March 19 that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an Israeli ground operation into Rafah is necessary because there is “no way” to destroy Hamas’ local battalions without one.[28]

The Associated Press reported on March 20 the new Palestinian prime minister would appoint a “non-partisan, technocratic government” supported by the international community and the Palestinian people. The Associated Press cited a mission statement written by incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa.[29] Mustafa added that the Palestinian Authority (PA) aims to hold presidential and parliamentary elections. He did not give a timetable and added that the timetable would depend on “realities on the ground” in Gaza, the West Bank, and east Jerusalem. PA President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Mustafa as the new prime minister on March 14.[30]

Hamas’ senior representative to Lebanon Osama Hamdan said on March 20 that Israel responded negatively to Hamas’ ceasefire proposal.[31] Hamas submitted a ceasefire proposal and a hostage-for-prisoner exchange to international mediators on March 14.[32] The proposal includes a ceasefire, calls for Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, an increase in the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, a return of displaced Palestinians, and a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Strip.

Israeli media reported on March 14 that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant disagreed over the issue of humanitarian aid distribution in the Gaza Strip.[33] Gallant said that Fatah must be involved in distribution while Netanyahu said he is “not ready to hear about the PA.”[34] Israeli media reported on March 15 that Gallant said that the best option Israel has for the future leader in the Gaza Strip will be local Palestinians who are affiliated with the PA.[35]

Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh said on March 20 that Israeli attacks targeting police officers in the Gaza Strip are harming Israel's ability to achieve a ceasefire.[36] Hamas controls several internal security forces, including the Civil Police.[37]

Israel detected Palestinian indirect fire targeting Sderot, southern Israel, on March 19.[38] No Palestinian militia has claimed responsibility for the attack at the time of writing. Israeli forces responded to the attack by conducting an airstrike targeting a Hamas tunnel shaft near the fire‘s point of origin.[39]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces have clashed with Palestinian fighters in at least three locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 19.[40]  Hamas reported on March 20 that its fighters conducted additional small arms attacks targeting Israeli forces and settlements in unspecified areas of the West Bank during an unspecified time frame.[41] Hamas called for Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem to escalate against Israel.[42]

The IDF Air Force killed four Palestinian fighters, including two low-level PIJ leaders, in a drone strike in the Jenin refugee camp on March 20.[43]  The IDF said that one of the PIJ fighters was a senior PIJ member who killed an Israeli civilian in a small arms attack targeting an Israeli settlement in May 2023. The strike also killed a local PIJ commander in Jenin.[44] The IDF said that the two other unspecified fighters killed in the strike directed an attempted suicide vest attack into Israel on March 11. The two fighters also directed an attack in which Palestinian fighters detonated an improvised explosive device targeting Israeli forces in Homesh, near Jerusalem, on March 8.[45] Palestinians in Jenin held a funeral service for the fighters on March 20.[46]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 19.[47]

The IDF said on March 20 that it has degraded Hezbollah’s ability to transfer weapons since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war.[48] The IDF added that it has targeted Hezbollah’s weapons production facilities since the beginning of the war. The IDF noted that these facilities are in civilian areas in southern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and in Lebanese cities.

An Israeli airstrike killed an Amal Movement leader in al Ghandouriya in southern Lebanon on March 20.[49] The Amal Movement released a statement mourning the official on the same day.[50]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed a drone attack targeting Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 19.[51] Israel has not commented on the attack at the time of writing. Ben Gurion Airport did not report any significant flight delays on March 19, suggesting that the drone attack either did not pose a threat to the airport or did not occur.[52] The Kataib Hezbollah Secretary General said on March 20 that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias must continue their support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.[53] Kataib Hezbollah is part of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which began a ”second phase of operations” in March 2024 that is defined by drone and missile attacks targeting Israeli airports and seaports. The Israeli government does not acknowledge many of these attacks claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, and some of these attacks likely did not occur.

A French military helicopter operating in the Red Sea under European-led Operation Aspides intercepted a Houthi drone over the Red Sea on March 20.[54] European Council coalition members have shot down eight drones and ”repelled“ three other drones since they launched Operation Aspides on February 19.[55] Aspides is the European defensive naval coalition operating in the Red Sea.[56]  The French military said that the drone was “threatening civilian maritime traffic.”[57]  The European coalition said that its vessels have ”closely protected” 35 merchant vessels in Red Sea.[58]

The Houthi supreme leader said on March 15 that the Houthis intend to target international shipping transiting the Indian Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope.[59] This statement is likely aspirational given the current maximum range of Houthi weapon systems, which is roughly 2,200km.[60] Houthi military spokesperson Yahye Saree said that the expanded operation would target all Israel-associated commercial vessels traveling around the Cape of Good Hope.[61] The Houthi’s maximum weapon range is 2,200km, which encompasses only some parts of the shipping routes toward the Cape of Good Hope and Indian Ocean, suggesting that the supreme leader's statement is largely aspirational.[62] Vessel traffic through the Red Sea has declined by approximately 50% since January 2024 due to Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.[63] The Cape of Good Hope has seen a 74% increase in traffic compared to 2023 after Houthi attacks forced ships to re-route from the Red Sea and Suez Canal.[64] The Houthis have not conducted an attack outside the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since the announcement on March 15. Iran did target a vessel 200km off the Indian coast in the Indian Ocean on December 23.[65]

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei acknowledged the Iranian government’s shortcomings in “controlling inflation” and economic production during his Nowruz speech on March 20.[66] Khamenei announced “controlling inflation and” economic production as Iran’s new year’s slogan at the beginning of the last Persian calendar year in March 2023.[67] Khamenei stated on March 20, 2024 that the state of inflation and economic production in Iran is “relatively far from what we wanted.”[68] Khamenei said in a separate Nowruz message on March 20, 2024 that Iranians should not expect the regime to address “big issues” such as inflation and production growth “within a year.”[69] Khamenei also described the economy as Iran’s “main weakness” and announced a new slogan, “a leap in [economic] production with [the] people’s participation,” for the upcoming Persian calendar year.[70]

Iran’s inflation rate is approximately 44 percent, according to Iranian media.[71] The actual inflation rate is likely higher given Iranian officials and media’s tendency to fabricate economic statistics, however. Western and diaspora media recently reported that many Iranians refrained this year from buying goods that they normally would for Nowruz, such as new clothes and sweets, due to high prices.[72]

Andie Parry, Annika Ganzeveld, Kathryn Tyson, Alexandra Braverman, Johanna Moore, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET 

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. For more on developments in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.

Note: CTP and ISW have refocused the update to cover the Israel-Hamas war. The new sections address developments in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as noteworthy activity from Iran’s Axis of Resistance. We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Click here to see CTP and ISW’s interactive map of Israeli ground operations. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Iran is likely concerned that Armenia’s deteriorating relations with Russia and outreach to the West could increase NATO’s presence along its northern border. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi discussed the security situation in the Caucasus with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on March 19.[1] Raisi told Putin that Iran is “ready to maintain stability” and protect Iran’s strategic interests in the Caucasus.[2] Iran’s interests in the Caucasus include keeping overland trade routes open, preventing Israel from using Azerbaijan’s territory to operate against Iran, and preempting the spread of separatist sentiments among Iran’s Azeri minority.[3] Russian readouts of Raisi and Putin’s phone call notably did not mention that the pair discussed the Caucasus.[4]

Iranian leaders previously expressed concern that the United States and NATO would exploit the Russian focus on Ukraine to increase Western influence in the Caucasus. Iranian Supreme Leader Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, for example, warned Russia in July 2023 to not “neglect” the Caucasus because “ill-intending parties…would attack the interests of Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”[5] Velayati also claimed that Turkey aspires to create a “pan-Turkic” belt stretching from Istanbul to Xinjiang that would “surround Iran from the north and Russia from the south” and “spread NATO’s influence in the region.”[6]

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s government has pursued closer ties with NATO and Western countries in recent months. The Armenian and French defense ministers signed an arms contract in late February 2024.[7] Armenia’s foreign minister discussed normalizing ties with Turkey during a meeting with Turkey’s foreign minister in Antalya, Turkey, on March 1.[8] Pashinyan separately stated that Armenia seeks to “continue and develop the existing political dialogue and expand our partnership with [NATO] and some of its members” during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Yerevan on March 19.[9]

Raisi and Putin’s phone call on March 19 comes amid a deterioration in Russo-Armenian relations after Russia failed to support Armenia during Azerbaijan’s two-day offensive targeting Nagorno Karabakh in September 2023. Azerbaijan seized Nagorno Karabakh—an enclave in Azerbaijan previously home to a large Armenian population—during a two-day military offensive in September 2023.[10] Armenia began seeking external security assistance from parties other than Russia—Armenia's traditional security partner—after the offensive, claiming that Russia had failed to help Armenia defend Nagorno Karabakh against Azerbaijan.[11] Armenia’s relations with Russia have further worsened in recent weeks. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced in late February 2024 that Armenia “froze” its participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).[12] The CSTO is a Russian-led security organization that, like NATO, requires member states to come to one another’s assistance if a member state is attacked.[13] Pashinyan later stated that the CSTO “creates a threat” to Armenia’s “security and territorial integrity.”[14] Pashinyan also called on Russia to remove its border guards from Armenia’s international airport in Yerevan in early March 2024.[15]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued its raid at al Shifa Hospital on March 19.[16] The IDF reported on March 18 that it had intelligence that senior Hamas officials were using the area to conduct and direct attacks in the Gaza Strip.[17]  The IDF 162nd Division and Shin Bet led the raid targeting al Shifa Hospital and killed over 50 Palestinian fighters and detained 300 suspects during the operation.[18] The IDF detained Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas rocketry and intelligence personnel. Israeli forces also seized ammunition near the hospital.  Palestinian militias, including Hamas, targeted Israeli forces operating at al Shifa Hospital at least six times.[19]

Hamas' infiltration into the al Shifa Hospital area after Israel’s initial clearing operation highlights Hamas’ efforts to reestablish itself in the northern Gaza Strip. Hamas fighters conducted at least four attacks targeting Israeli forces in the al Shifa area on March 18 and 19, indicating Hamas retains some fighting forces near the hospital.[20] The large number of suspects that Israeli forces detained at al Shifa hospital also indicates the success of Hamas and its allies in rebuilding their fighting strength in the north.[21] Israeli forces initially expanded clearing operations to al Shifa Hospital in November 2023, targeting a Hamas tunnel network underneath the hospital.[22] Israeli forces began to decrease their presence in the northern Gaza Strip in December 2023, citing the degradation of Hamas forces in the area.[23] Hamas has sought to reconstitute militarily and rebuild its governing authority in the northern Gaza Strip after the Israeli drawdown. Israeli Army Radio reported in January 2024 that the Israeli military establishment assesses that Hamas is trying to restore its control over the civilian population in the northern Gaza Strip partly by rehabilitating local, Hamas-controlled police there.[24]

Key Takeaways:

  • The Caucasus: Iran is likely concerned that Armenia’s deteriorating relations with Russia and outreach to the West could increase NATO’s presence along its northern border. Iranian leaders previously expressed concern that the United States and NATO would exploit Russia’s focus on its invasion of Ukraine to increase their influence in the Caucasus.
  • Iranian Supreme Leader Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, for example, warned Russia in July 2023 to not “neglect” the Caucasus because “ill-intending parties…would attack the interests of Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
  • Velayati also claimed that Turkey aspires to create a “pan-Turkic” belt that would “surround Iran from the north” and “spread NATO’s influence in the region.”
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued its raid at al Shifa Hospital on March 19. Hamas' infiltration into the al Shifa Hospital area after Israel’s initial clearing operation highlights Hamas’ efforts to reestablish itself in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: IDF Egoz and Maglan special operations forces concluded clearing operations in Hamad, northern Khan Younis, on March 19.
  • West Bank: Israeli media said on March 19 that the IDF has established a unit of engineers and intelligence personnel to locate “offensive” tunnels in the West Bank. The unit has not discovered any offensive tunnels in the West Bank at the time of this writing, according to Israeli media.
  • Lebanese Hezbollah in Syria: Israel likely conducted multiple airstrikes targeting Hezbollah facilities in southern Syria.
  • Lebanese Hezbollah in the Region: Senior Hezbollah official Wafiq Safa traveled to the UAE on March 19 to negotiate the release of Lebanese detainees suspected of having ties to Hezbollah, according to Lebanese media.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

See topline text for additional details on the al Shifa Hospital raid.

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) continued clearing operations in the central Gaza Strip on March 19.[25] Nahal Brigade forces killed several Palestinian fighters in the central Gaza Strip.[26] The IDF Nahal Brigade has been operating in the area between the northern and central Gaza Strip for two weeks.[27] The IDF has been constructing a highway in this area, which the IDF has dubbed the “Netzarim corridor.”[28] Palestinian militias continued to target Israeli forces in the Netzarim area with rocket and mortar fire.[29] Palestinian groups also fired rockets at Israeli armor and infantry in the eastern Central Governorate.[30]

The IDF Egoz and Maglan special operations forces (SOF) concluded clearing operations in Hamad, northern Khan Younis, on March 19.[31] Hamas-affiliated media said that Israeli forces departed Hamad on March 19.[32] Israeli forces expanded clearing operations into Hamad on March 3.[33] Israeli SOF raided a building used by a Hamas battalion deputy commander and killed over 100 Palestinian fighters during the two-week operation in Hamad.[34]

The IDF 7th Brigade (36th Division) continued clearing operations in Qarara, northern Khan Younis, on March 19.[35] The 7th Brigade targeted Palestinian fighters and militia infrastructure in Qarara on March 19, including a building that Palestinian fighters used to fire anti-tank guided missiles at Israeli forces on March 17.[36]

Israeli forces are continuing to target Hamas police officers in the Gaza Strip. The IDF has warned that all members of “the Hamas apparatus,” including Hamas police officers, are legitimate targets.[37] Hamas controls several internal security forces, including the Civil Police.[38] The Israeli Air Force killed the Hamas police director in the Nuseirat camp, Mahmoud al Bayoumi, on March 19.[39] An airstrike targeted his police vehicle.[40]  An Israeli airstrike also killed a Hamas police lieutenant colonel in Jabalia on March 19.[41] Hamas-affiliated media said that the police officer facilitated aid deliveries to Jabalia Camp.[42]  Hamas police officers, as well as Gazan clans and political factions, have provided escorts for aid convoys through the Gaza Strip.[43] Israel has sought to organize alternative security escorts for the shipments, including by using international private security contractors.[44]  Israeli forces killed Faiq al Mabhouh, who is a senior official in the Hamas-run Interior Ministry, during their operation in al Shifa Hospital on March 18.[45]

Mossad Director David Barnea, who is the lead Israeli official responsible for ceasefire and hostage negotiations, departed Qatar after one day of indirect ceasefire talks in Qatar, according to the Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson.[46] Lower-level negotiating teams remain in Qatar.[47]

Palestinian fighters did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on March 19.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters at least nine times in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 18.[48] An al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fighter fired small arms targeting Israeli forces in Gush Etzion, south of Bethlehem.[49] The fighter injured two Israeli Shin Bet officers before Israeli security forces killed him.[50] Israeli media reported that the fighter was from Jenin.[51]

Israeli media said on March 19 that the IDF has established a unit of engineers and intelligence personnel to locate “offensive” tunnels in the West Bank.[52] The IDF reportedly established the unit after residents in Bat Hefer, which is across the Israel-West Bank border from Tulkarm, heard digging noises near their homes. The unit has not discovered any offensive tunnels in the West Bank at the time of writing, according to Israeli media. An unspecified security official said that the unit is aware that “terrorist organizations [in the West Bank] are trying to mimic some of the combat methods in Gaza” and that these organizations use underground facilities for weapons storage.[53] The unit has located approximately five shafts in the Jenin refugee camp and Nour Shams refugee camp, but Israeli media said that the shafts did not lead to tunnels without elaborating further upon the nature of the shafts.[54] The IDF discovered one tunnel dozens of meters long in Jenin refugee camp in July 2023 that connected an apartment to a mosque, however.[55]

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least five attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 18.[56]

The IDF established a specialized brigade on March 19 to defend two areas in northern Israel from attacks from Syria and Lebanon.[57] The IDF created the new Mountain Brigade to “defend the Mount Dov and Mount Hermon sectors.” The brigade will replace the Hermon Brigade, which presumably operated in the same area. The IDF did not explain whether the Hermon Brigade would relocate or merge with the Mountain Brigade. The new Mountain Brigade will specialize in combat in mountainous terrain and will begin operating in the next several weeks.

Senior Hezbollah official Wafiq Safa traveled to the UAE on March 19 to negotiate the release of Lebanese detainees suspected of having ties to Hezbollah, according to Lebanese media.[58] The UAE has previously detained dozens of Lebanese nationals over suspected ties to Hezbollah.[59] Safa is the head of Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit.[60] This unit is responsible for coordination with Lebanese state entities, including political parties, Lebanese armed forces elements, and other state institutions. The unit is also responsible for bribing Lebanese officials to secure their assistance in covering up and enabling Hezbollah’s criminal activity.[61] The United States sanctioned Safa in July 2019 for serving as the head of Hezbollah’s security apparatus and using Lebanese ports and border crossings to smuggle weapons and transfer funds for Hezbollah.[62] Safa is also the Hezbollah official responsible for engaging the international community and Lebanon’s security forces, according to the US Treasury Department.[63]

Israel likely conducted multiple airstrikes targeting Lebanese Hezbollah facilities in southern Syria on March 18. The Syrian Defense Ministry said on March 19 that Syrian air defense systems intercepted at least one Israeli missile and that several other missiles struck unspecified military targets in the Damascus countryside.[64] Unspecified Syrian sources told Reuters that the strikes targeted Hezbollah ammunition depots near Yabroud in the Qalamoun Mountains north of Damascus.[65] An unspecified Western intelligence source said that the airstrike on March 18 also targeted “Hezbollah infrastructure” in Qutayfah, which is also north of Damascus.[66] Unspecified Syrian sources and ”regional intelligence” claimed that Israel has increased its rate of strikes targeting Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Syria.[67] Yabroud and Qutayfah are located on main roads used by Iran and Iranian-affiliated militias to transport weapons and personnel through southern Syria and into Lebanon.

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi met with Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Syrian Foreign Affairs Minister Faisal Mekdad in Damascus on March 19.[68] Grossi and Mekdad discussed “the factors that hinder cooperation” between the IAEA and Syria.[69] Emirati media previously reported that Grossi would likely discuss the suspected nuclear reactor in eastern Syria that Israel destroyed in an airstrike in 2007.[70] The Syrian regime has denied that the site Israel struck in 2007 was a secret nuclear facility.[71] The IAEA concluded in 2011 that the site was “very likely” a nuclear reactor. Grossi said on March 19 that he visited Syria to “reignite high-level dialogue between the IAEA and Syria.”[72]

IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri warned that Iran would retaliate if “foreigners” seize Iranian oil tankers anywhere in the world during a speech for the anniversary of the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry on March 18.[73]  Tangsiri is probably implicitly warning the United States. Iran has previously seized US commercial vessels in response to US seizures of Iranian vessels.[74] These US seizures aim to enforce sanctions on Iran.

Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji discussed bilateral cooperation and the oil market in a telephone call with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak on March 19.[75] The ministers discussed the development of unspecified oil and gas field projects. Iran previously signed memoranda of understanding (MoU) with Russian oil companies to develop oil and gas fields, invest in the energy sector, and construct liquefied natural gas plants.[76] The two sides have not moved forward with these MoUs by converting them into contracts.

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and Badr Organization Secretary General Hadi al Ameri reached an agreement to secure gubernatorial positions for their respective political parties.[77] Maliki will nominate State of Law Coalition member Wadah al Tamimi as governor of Diyala Province and Ameri will nominate Fatah Alliance member Abbas al Zamili as governor of Qadisiyyah Province.[78] Zamili served as a member of the Qadisiyyah provincial council and as the head of the Badr Organization’s Shura Council in Qadisiyyah between 2016 and 2017.[79]

The Houthis claimed a missile attack targeting the Marshall Islands–flagged, Greek-operated MADO tanker in an unspecified area of the Red Sea.[80] The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations has not confirmed this attack on the MADO at the time of writing. The UKMTO previously reported two attacks on the MADO on March 15 and March 16, respectively.[81]

The Houthis claimed a missile attack targeting Eilat, southern Israel, on March 19. The IDF said on March 18 that a “suspicious aerial target” crossed into Israeli territory from the Red Sea and fell into an open area north of Eilat.[82]

US CENTCOM conducted multiple preemptive strikes targeting Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen on March 18.[83] CENTCOM said that it destroyed seven anti-ship missiles, three Houthi attack drones, and three weapons storage containers. Houthi-affiliated media previously reported on March 18 that the United States and the United Kingdom conducted 10 airstrikes targeting two Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.[84]

Iran Update, March 18, 2024

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Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, Alexandra Braverman, Kathryn Tyson, Anne McGill, Talia Tayoun, Kelly Campa, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Israeli forces conducted a "high-precision operation" at al Shifa Hospital on March 18 based on intelligence that Hamas was using it for militant activity.[1] The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported that they had intelligence that senior Hamas officials were using the area to conduct and direct attacks in the Gaza Strip.[2] Israeli ground forces advanced to the hospital with bulldozers and tanks and detained more than 200 Palestinians.[3] Palestinian militias, including Hamas, engaged Israeli forces around al Shifa Hospital during the operation.[4]

Israeli forces killed Faiq al Mabhouh, who is a senior official in the Hamas-run Interior Ministry, during the operation.[5] The IDF said that Mabhouh was the head of Hamas’ “Operations Directorate of the Internal Security Service,” while Hamas said that he was the “director of central operations of the Palestinian Police in Gaza.”[6] The Civil Police and the Interior Ministry‘s Internal Security Forces both employ fighters from the Hamas military wing.[7] The IDF has warned that all members of “the Hamas apparatus,” including Hamas police officers, are legitimate targets during IDF operations in the Gaza Strip.[8] Mabhouh’s brother, Mahmoud Mabhouh, was a prominent figure in Hamas’ military wing, and Israel likely killed him in 2010.[9]

Hamas infiltration into the al Shifa Hospital area after Israel’s initial clearing operation highlights Hamas’ efforts to reestablish itself in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli forces initially expanded clearing operations to al Shifa Hospital in November 2023, targeting a Hamas tunnel network underneath the hospital.[10] Hamas has sought to reconstitute militarily and rebuild its governing authority in the northern Gaza Strip since Israeli forces reduced their presence there in December 2023. Israeli Army Radio reported in January 2024 that the Israeli military establishment believes that Hamas is trying to restore its control over the civilian population in the northern Gaza Strip partly by rehabilitating local police there.[11]

Syrian Defense Minister Ali Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Tehran on March 16 to discuss military cooperation with senior Iranian officials. Abbas met with Iranian Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Brig. Gen. Ali Akbar Ahmadian, and Armed Forces General Staff Chief Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri from March 17 to 18.[12]

Abbas may have discussed Iran transferring air defense systems to Syria during his meetings. Abbas discussed recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria and how to counter them, among other issues. Iranian leaders have sought in recent years to build an integrated air defense network in Syria that could repel Israeli airstrikes and thereby help Iran entrench itself militarily in Syria.[13] The meetings with Ashtiani and Bagheri are particularly noteworthy in this context. Ashtiani, as defense minister, is primarily responsible for managing arms procurement and sales as well as the Iranian defense industrial base. Bagheri has previously pursued expanding air defense cooperation with Syria.

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: Israeli forces conducted a "high-precision operation" at al Shifa Hospital based on intelligence that Hamas was using it for militant activity.
  • Syria: Syrian Defense Minister Ali Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Tehran to discuss military cooperation with senior Iranian officials.
  • West Bank: Israeli police have conducted training exercises in recent weeks to prepare for possible Palestinian militia attacks into Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed a one-way drone attack targeting an unspecified Israeli airbase in the Golan Heights.
  • Yemen: Houthi-affiliated media claimed that the United States and the United Kingdom conducted 10 airstrikes targeting two Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.

Iran Update, March 17, 2024

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Andie Parry, Annika Ganzeveld, Alexandra Braverman, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) conducted clearing operations in the northern and central Gaza Strip on March 17.
  • West Bank: The IDF arrested seven wanted individuals across the West Bank on March 17. The IDF also confiscated materials needed for manufacturing improvised explosive devices during an operation in Hebron.
  • Northern Israel: Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 16.
  • The Red Sea: The Houthis likely fired at least one unspecified missile targeting the Marshall Islands-flagged LPG tanker MADO in the Gulf of Aden on March 16. This incident marks the second time the Houthis have targeted this vessel in two days.
  • Syria: The Israeli Air Force likely conducted air strikes targeting a Hezbollah ammunitions depot and other Syrian army positions along the Damascus-Homs highway on March 17.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.|

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 162nd Division and combat engineers demolished a 2.5-kilometer-long tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip during the week of March 10.[1] The IDF called the tunnel the “longest underground route” in the northern Gaza Strip that it has discovered during the war. The tunnel network allowed Hamas units to move between the northern and southern Gaza Strip.[2]

The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) conducted clearing operations in the northern and central Gaza Strip on March 17.[3] The Nahal Brigade killed 18 Palestinian fighters operating near IDF positions using airstrikes, tank fire, and sniper fire.[4] The IDF Nahal Brigade has been operating in the area between the northern and central Gaza Strip for two weeks.[5] The IDF has been constructing a highway in this area, which the IDF has dubbed the “Netzarim corridor.”[6] This corridor divides the northern and southern parts of the Gaza Strip. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which is a leftist Palestinian militia aligned with Hamas in the war, mortared Israeli forces at the ”Netzarim site” near the Israeli-built road.[7] Palestinian militias also claimed rocket and small arms attacks near the corridor.[8] Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the war, mortared Israeli positions in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip‘s Central governorate in three separate attacks.[9]

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in Khan Younis on March 17. The IDF said that the IDF Givati Brigade (162nd Division) is still conducting clearing operations in Hamad.[10] The IDF 7th Brigade (36th Division) fought Palestinian fighters and seized weapons in Khan Younis.[11] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades also engaged Israeli forces operating in Khan Younis.[12]

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) mortared Israeli forces at Nahal Oz, which is close to the Israel-Gaza Strip border, on March 17.[13] The PFLP is a secular, leftist Palestinian group fighting alongside Hamas in the war.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces have clashed with Palestinian fighters in at least two locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 16.[14]

The IDF arrested seven wanted individuals across the West Bank on March 17.[15] The IDF confiscated materials needed for manufacturing improvised explosive devices during an operation in Hebron.

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on March 16.[16] The IDF reported that it shot down a “suspicious aerial target” over Acre on March 16.[17] The IDF often uses this language to refer to suspected drones

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that US forces destroyed five naval attack drones and one aerial drone in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on March 16.[18] CENTCOM assessed that these weapons presented an “imminent threat” to commercial vessels and US Navy ships in the Red Sea.[19] Houthi-controlled and pro-Axis of Resistance media claimed that the United States and the United Kingdom conducted airstrikes in al Durayhimi, Hudaydah governorate and in al Taiziyah, Taiz governorate, on March 16.[20]

CENTCOM also reported that the Houthis launched two drones toward the Red Sea on March 16.[21] CENTCOM intercepted one of the drones. CENTCOM assessed that the second drone likely crashed into the Red Sea.[22] Neither drone caused any casualties aboard or damage to nearby vessels.

The Houthis likely fired at least one unspecified missile targeting the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker MADO in the Gulf of Aden on March 16.[23] UK Maritime Trade Operations reported that an unspecified actor fired at least one missile targeting the MADO. This incident marks the second time the Houthis have targeted this vessel in two days. The UKMTO previously reported that an explosion occurred near the MADO in the Red Sea approximately 65 nautical miles west of Hudaydah on March 15.[24]

The Israeli Air Force likely conducted air strikes targeting a Hezbollah ammunitions depot and other Syrian army positions along the Damascus-Homs highway on March 17.[25] The Syrian Defense Ministry said that the strikes targeted several sites in southern Syria, damaging property and injuring one Syrian soldier.[26] Israeli Army Radio reported that the strikes targeted Syrian army positions and Hezbollah ammunition depots.[27] A Syria-focused analyst noted that the area has a large Hezbollah presence.[28] CTP-ISW has previously reported that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) may have previously used this highway as a weapons transportation route.[29] The airstrikes caused significant secondary explosions, potentially confirming that the strike targeted an ammunitions

Iran Update, March 16, 2024

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Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET 

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) conducted clearing operations in the northern and central Gaza Strip.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved plans for a military operation into Rafah.
  • Lebanon: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters in at least six locations in the West Bank.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Nahal Brigade (162nd Division) conducted clearing operations in the northern and central Gaza Strip on March 16.[1] The IDF Nahal Brigade has been operating at the intersection of the northern and central Gaza Strip for two weeks.[2] Israeli forces are launching raids from the ”Netzarim corridor” targeting Palestinian fighters. The “Netzarim corridor“ is where the IDF has been constructing a highway to support operations in the Gaza Strip.[3] Israeli forces have destroyed Hamas military infrastructure in the area including weapons depots and rocket launchers.

The IDF 215th Artillery Brigade (162nd Division) received intelligence about Palestinian fighters hiding inside a Hamas-affiliated building and directed an airstrike that targeted the fighters.[4] The IDF also killed a Hamas commander of a sniper unit.[5]

Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in Khan Younis on March 16. Israeli infantrymen coordinated with the IDF Air Force to destroy a Hamas weapons depot.[6] Commercially available satellite imagery captured on March 15 shows flattened terrain north of Hamad in northern Khan Younis, indicating that Israeli tanks or bulldozers operated in the area. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the self-proclaimed military wing of Fatah and aligned with Hamas in the war, detonated an unspecified explosive device targeting Israeli forces in Hamad.[7]