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.

Click here to view the updates published from January 1 to May 1, 2024

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, June 12, 2024

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Hamas issued new demands in the ceasefire negotiations with Israel on June 11. Hamas made the demands in response to the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal.[1] The demands include determining timelines for a permanent ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip. An unspecified senior Biden administration official said Hamas requested greater specificity in the proposal that would undermine the phased nature of the proposal. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on June 12 that Hamas’ new demands go beyond its previous negotiating position.[2] Blinken said that the issues Hamas raised are “bridgeable” but questioned whether Hamas is acting in good faith in the negotiations.[3] The Israeli proposal includes provisions to meet Hamas’ maximalist demands but does not guarantee them. Israeli officials have framed Hamas’ new demands as tantamount to a rejection of the Israeli proposal.[4]

Hamas portrayed its response to the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal as a technical iteration rather than an outright rejection likely to frame Israel as the party that is obstructing ceasefire talks. Hamas has repeatedly framed its participation in the negotiations as positive and productive.[5] This framing ignores that Hamas has refused to change its maximalist demands or grant any concessions since December 2023 and is now making new demands. Senior US officials, including President Joe Biden, have stated in recent weeks that Hamas remains the primary obstacle to a ceasefire agreement.[6] Hamas’ mis-framing is meant to force Israel to either accept the new demands or risk being perceived as the party that ended ceasefire negotiations. Israeli officials have indicated repeatedly that their latest proposal is the last one that they will make.[7]

Hamas feels that it can manipulate the ceasefire negotiations in this manner because it is confident that it can survive the Gaza Strip. Senior Hamas officials have repeatedly expressed confidence that Hamas will survive the war, despite Israeli military pressure.[8] Hamas forces throughout the Gaza Strip remain combat effective and are trying to reconstitute. Hamas has also begun trying to reassert its political authority in some parts of the strip.[9] Hamas has achieved this success by exploiting the fact that Israeli forces withdraw from areas in the Gaza Strip after clearing them rather than conducting follow-on holding operations.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed a senior Lebanese Hezbollah commander and three other Hezbollah fighters in an airstrike in southern Lebanon on June 11.[10] The IDF said that the commander, Taleb Sami Abdullah, was one of the seniormost Hezbollah commanders in southern Lebanon and responsible for attacks into northern Israel.[11] Abdullah commanded Hezbollah’s Nasr unit, which is one of three regional commands in southern Lebanon along the border with Israel.[12] Images of Abdullah alongside IRGC Quds Force commanders Qassem Soleimani and Esmail Ghaani appeared after his death.[13][14]

Hezbollah launched over 200 mortars and rockets into northern Israel on June 12 in response to the killing of Abdullah.[15] The attack marks the largest that Hezbollah has conducted into Israel since the war began.[16] The IDF said that the attack caused fires but no casualties.[17] Senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine threatened to increase the rate and scale of attacks into northern Israel in response to the killing of Abdullah.[18]

Hezbollah has continued almost daily attacks into northern Israel since October 2023, despite the IDF killing several Hezbollah commanders throughout the war. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated in April 2024 that the IDF has killed around half of Hezbollah’s field commanders in southern Lebanon. The IDF also killed a senior officer in Hezbollah’s Radwan special forces in January 2024. Hezbollah has nevertheless sustained and even intensified in some cases its direct and indirect fire attacks into northern Israel.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is framing his candidacy in the presidential election around improving the Iranian economy. Ghalibaf has discussed in recent days the need to improve economic conditions in Iran and chose “service and progress” as his campaign slogan.[19] Ghalibaf also emphasized the need to increase production in the automotive, energy and housing industries and advocated against price fixing.[20] Ghalibaf affirmed that he will implement the seventh five-year development plan, which is a Raisi-era document focused partly on curbing inflation, optimizing the state budget, and resolving government debts.[21] Ghalibaf’s emphatic support for the five-year development plan indicates that he is trying to frame his candidacy as least partly as a continuation of the policies of late-President Ebrahim Raisi.

Ghalibaf appointed Ali Nikzad—a hardline, ethnically Azeri parliamentarian—as his campaign manager on June 10.[22] Nikzad previously worked in Raisi’s presidential campaigns in 2017 and 2021.[23] An Iranian opposition outlet suggested that Ghalibaf hired Nikzad to garner support from the Iranian Azeri population and rural, conservative communities. The outlet also suggested that hiring Nikzad could be meant to balance against reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian, who is an ethnic Azeri as well. Nikzad and Pezeshkian have both represented heavily Azeri constituencies in Parliament.

The Houthis attacked and disabled a commercial vessel in the Red Sea on June 12.[24] The Houthis struck the vessel with an unmanned surface vehicle and again with an “unknown airborne projectile.”[25] The crew lost control of the vessel due to the damage. Maritime security firms identified the vessel as the Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned Tutor, which was sailing to India.[26] The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack and alleged that they used drones, missiles, and an unmanned surface vehicle.[27]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: Hamas issued new demands in the ceasefire negotiations with Israel. Hamas portrayed its new demands as technical iteration rather than an outright rejection of the proposal likely to frame Israel as the party that is obstructing ceasefire talks.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: The IDF killed a senior Lebanese Hezbollah commander in an airstrike in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah responded by launching over 200 mortars and rockets into northern Israel.
  • Iran: Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is framing his candidacy in the presidential election around improving the Iranian economy.
  • Yemen: The Houthis attacked and disabled a commercial vessel in the Red Sea. The Houthis claimed to use drones, missiles, and an unmanned surface vehicle.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed a drone attack targeting Eilat.

 

Iran Update, June 11, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, Kelly Campa, Johanna Moore, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Hamas sent a formal response to the Israeli ceasefire proposal to international mediators on June 11. Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad expressed “readiness to positively” engage in a deal, emphasizing Hamas’ primary demand for a permanent ceasefire.[1] Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziad al Nakhalah gave the response to the Qatari prime minister.[2] Qatar and Egypt confirmed receipt of the Hamas response and said that they would review it and coordinate the next steps.[3] Hamas Political Bureau member Osama Hamdan told Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated media that Hamas left comments on the latest ceasefire proposal. The comments include descriptions of the ceasefire and demands for Israeli withdrawals from the Rafah crossing and Philadelphi Corridor.[4] Hamdan added that all Palestinian factions share Hamas’ position. Hamas has been reviewing an Israeli-accepted, US-drafted proposal since May 30.[5] Several Hamas officials have indicated opposition to the Israeli ceasefire proposal, arguing that Hamas will only accept a proposal that guarantees a permanent ceasefire. A permanent ceasefire is one of the maximalist demands that Hamas has maintained since December 2023.[6]

 

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution on June 10 that called on Hamas to accept the latest ceasefire proposal.[7] The United States presented the resolution as part of several other diplomatic efforts to increase international pressure on Hamas to accept the proposal.[8] The resolution detailed the three phases of the ceasefire proposal and stressed that a ceasefire would continue even after the initial 42-day period of the first phase if negotiations for phase two are ongoing.[9] Hamas has expressed concern that the proposal does not ensure a permanent end to hostilities.[10] A senior Hamas official told Reuters on June 11 that it accepts the UNSC resolution and is ready to negotiate over the details.[11] US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hamas' response is "hopeful,” but noted that Hamas’ leadership in the Gaza Strip will be the one to make final decisions.[12]

 

Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar remains confident in Hamas’ position in the Gaza Strip and believes that Israel has “more to lose” than Hamas. Sinwar recently told mediators that, “[Hamas] has the Israelis exactly where [Hamas] wants them.”[13] Sinwar believes that Israel has more to lose from the war than Hamas does, and that Hamas can continue the fight in the Gaza Strip.[14] Sinwar’s confidence is reflected in Hamas’ insistence on its maximalist demands during negotiations since December 2023. Hamas likely remains confident that it will survive Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip and can therefore maintain its maximalist demands without granting major concessions.

 

Sinwar recently told unspecified allies that the current war is similar to the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE.[15] Imam Hussein, the third Shia imam, led a small band of fighters against the massive army of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid in the battle and ultimately sacrificed himself and his men to defend true Islam.[16] Iran and the broader Axis of Resistance commonly reference the Battle of Karbala in military doctrine related to challenging ”oppressors.”[17] The story of Hussein is a very significant event in Islamic history, and Sinwar’s reference to it is not unusual. Sinwar is analogizing himself and his fighters to Hussein and his followers.

 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with several regional leaders in the Middle East on June 10 and June 11 to discuss the need to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.[18] Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials in Israel on June 10 in a series of separate meetings.[19] Blinken said that there is “strong consensus” in Israel and internationally to move forward with the proposal and “everyone’s vote is in, except one vote and that’s Hamas.”[20] Blinken said that “it really is down to one person at this point,” referring to Sinwar.[21]

 

Iranian reformist presidential candidate Masoud Pezeshkian is trying to balance his relatively moderate agenda with his need to maintain the approval of the Iranian supreme leader. Pezeshkian emphasized the Iranian president’s subordination to the supreme leader in his first televised interview on June 10, stating that “the general policies of the supreme leader are clear, and any administration that governs must implement [these general policies].”[22] Pezeshkian made these comments in the context of implementing Iran’s next five-year development plan. Iran’s five-year development plan is a document that outlines Iran’s budget and development policies throughout a five-year period. Pezeshkian separately promoted reformist ideas in an interview with a reformist newspaper on June 11, illustrating the precariousness with which Pezeshkian must balance his subordination to the supreme leader and his reformist agenda.[23] Pezeshkian defended Iranians’ right to protest, noting that “all protests stem from injustice. . . you can’t take the rights of an individual away and tell them to be quiet” and advocated for a less aggressive veiling enforcement policy. Pezeshkian’s June 10 comments stressing the supreme leader’s role in setting Iran’s policies are not uncharacteristic of a reformist candidate.

 

Most—if not all—actors in the Iranian political spectrum are ultimately dedicated to preserving the Islamic Republic and serving its supreme leader. Pezeshkian likely seeks to generate support by discussing popular reforms supported by Iranian youth, including economic engagement with the West and mandatory veiling. Pezeshkian—and any other reformist—must work within the system to implement reforms, all of which would need to be approved by the supreme leader. This means that the reformist camp works from an inherent disadvantage because reforms promised by a presidential candidate will not be implemented unless the reforms have the supreme leader’s approval, and he is less likely to grant reformist policies. Hardliners do not have the same restrictions because their policies are more likely to be green lit by the supreme leader.

 

Voter participation in Iranian presidential elections has significantly decreased in recent years due to decreased political representation and election engineering.[24] It is unclear if Pezeshkian, the sole reformist candidate, will instill greater confidence in the integrity of the regime’s electoral system and improve voter turnout. The Guardian Council—the regime entity responsible for vetting and approving presidential candidates—boasted on June 11 that the “unpredictable” list of approved candidates demonstrated the equity with which candidates were reviewed.[25] The council heavily engineered the 2021 presidential elections to favor former President Ebrahim Raisi.[26] It is unlikely that Pezeshkian's participation in the 2024 elections will repair the damage done by the 2021 election engineering or improve voters' trust and subsequent participation in the process.

 

Source: Syracuse University Iran Data Portal, 2009-2021 presidential election voter turnout rates

 

Presidential candidates are measuring their campaigns against the former Raisi administration. Hardline presidential candidate and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf stressed in an interview on June 10 that he would retain Raisi administration officials if he were to win the presidency.[27] Pezeshkian conversely criticized the Raisi administration’s economic policy on June 11.[28]

 

UK-based outlet Amwaj Media reported that multiple regime officials worked to disqualify prominent moderate Iranian politician Ali Larijani from the 2021 presidential elections.[29] A June 10 Amwaj Media report cited an Iranian hardline source who said that former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Organization Chief Hossein Taeb spearheaded efforts to disqualify Larijani in 2021.[30] Taeb maintains close ties to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba Khamenei.[31] The hardline source told Amwaj Media that unspecified individuals “forced” Larijani’s personal doctor to testify to the Guardian Council that Larijani was physically unfit to be president.[32] Former Law Enforcement Commander Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari separately accused Larijani of nepotism.[33] These claims and accusations led the Guardian Council to disqualify Larijani in 2021.

 

A second unspecified Iranian source said that Larijani asked Khamenei before registering for the June 2024 presidential election to investigate the validity of his 2021 disqualification, according to Amwaj. Larijani did not specifically ask Khamenei for a “green light” to enter the election, however.[34] Khamenei charged Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei with investigating Larijani’s disqualification and Ejei exonerated Larijani from the accusations that individuals such as Ashtari had brought up against Larijani in 2021.[35] Larijani’s exoneration reportedly led him to believe that the Guardian Council would allow him to compete in the June 28 election.[36] Seven of the 12 Guardian Council members voted against Larijani, however, thus barring him from running in the election.[37] An informed source told Amwaj Media that the Guardian Council disqualified Larijani because he is not “prudent” and lacks “certain managerial qualities.”[38] A senior Shia cleric in Qom who spoke to Amwaj Media added that supreme leader succession played an important role in the Guardian Council’s decision to disqualify Larijani.[39] The cleric assessed that Ali Larijani’s presidency could have increased the chances of his brother, Expediency Discernment Council head Sadegh Amoli Larijani, to succeed Khamenei as Iran’s next supreme leader.[40]

 

Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq claimed on June 11 that unidentified actors conducted a rocket attack targeting US forces in al Shaddadi, Hasakah Province, Syria.[41] CTP-ISW cannot verify whether any attack occurred. Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq reportedly has ties to Iranian-backed Iraqi militias Asaib Ahl al Haq and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba.[42] Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq similarly claimed in late March 2024 that unidentified actors conducted a drone attack targeting US forces at the Conoco Mission Support Site in eastern Syria.[43] The United States did not confirm the March 2024 attack.

 

Key Takeaways:

 

  • Gaza Strip Ceasefire: Hamas sent a formal response to the Israeli ceasefire proposal to international mediators on June 11, but the full response has not yet been released. A senior Hamas member told Hezbollah-affiliated media that Hamas left comments on the proposal including descriptions of the ceasefire and demands for Israeli withdrawals from the Rafah crossing and Philadelphi Corridor.
  • Hamas Ceasefire Calculations: Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar remains confident in Hamas’ position in the Gaza Strip and believes that Israel has “more to lose” than Hamas. Sinwar analogized himself to Imam Hussein in a statement to unspecified allies. Hussein was a major figure in Islamic history who fought and died against a much larger army at Karbala in 680 CE.
  • Iranian Presidential Elections: Iranian reformist presidential candidate Masoud Pezeshkian is trying to balance his relatively moderate agenda with his need to maintain the approval of the Iranian supreme leader. Most—if not all—actors in the Iranian political spectrum are ultimately dedicated to preserving the Islamic Republic and serving its supreme leader.
  • Iranian Presidential Disqualifications: UK-based outlet Amwaj Media reported that multiple regime officials worked to disqualify prominent moderate Iranian politician Ali Larijani from the 2021 presidential elections.
  • Iraq and Syria: An Iranian-backed Iraqi militia claimed that unidentified fighters fired rockets at US forces in northeastern Syria on June 11. This group previously claimed that unidentified fighters targeted US forces in northeastern Syria in March 2024, but CENTCOM did not confirm that attack. There is no evidence that either the June 11 or March 2024 attacks actually occurred.
  • Yemen: CNN reported on June 11 that US intelligence learned that Houthis are in talks to provide weapons to Somalia-based Sunni militant group al Shabaab, citing three anonymous US officials.
 

Iran Update, June 10, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Alexandra Braverman, Andie Parry, Annika Ganzeveld, Kathryn Tyson, Kelly Campa, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

The Iranian Guardian Council approved a pool of six candidates that included mostly hardliners for the upcoming 2024 presidential election. The six approved candidates include five hardliners and one reformist on June 9 for the upcoming presidential election.[1] The Iranian regime likely approved the sole reformist candidate to feign political diversity and therefore increase voter participation. Iranian officials have emphasized the need for “competitive” and “participatory” elections.[2] Iran recorded record low voter turnout in its March 2024 parliamentary election, though the real voter turnout was likely even lower than the officially recorded turnout.[3] The Guardian Council approved the following individuals to run for president:

  • Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (Hardliner). Ghalibaf is a hardline politician who has served as Iran’s parliament speaker since 2020.[4] Parliamentarians recently re-elected Ghalibaf as parliament speaker on May 28.[5] Ghalibaf is a long-time member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), having served as the IRGC Air Force commander between 1997 and 2000.[6] He is a very well-connected politician who maintains close personal relationships with the highest echelons of the IRGC dating back to the Iran-Iraq War.[7] Ghalibaf also served as Iran’s police chief between 2000 and 2005.[8] This marks Ghalibaf’s fourth bid for the presidency.[9]
  • Saeed Jalili (Hardliner). Jalili is a hardline politician and diplomat who currently serves as a member of the Expediency Discernment Council.[10] Jalili previously served as the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and chief nuclear negotiator from 2007 to 2013.[11] Jalili currently serves as the Supreme Leader’s representative to the SNSC.[12] This marks Jalili’s third bid for the presidency.[13]
  • Amir Hossein Ghazi Zadeh Hashemi (Hardliner). Hashemi is a hardline politician who has served as vice president and the head of the Martyrs and Veterans Affairs Foundation in the Raisi administration from 2021 to the present.[14] Hashemi served as a representative for Mashhad in parliament from 2008 to 2021.[15] Hashemi ran for president and lost in 2021.[16]
  • Ali Reza Zakani (Hardliner). Zakani is a hardline politician who has served as the mayor of Tehran since 2021.[17] The Guardian Council barred Zakani from running in the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections.[18] Zakani competed in the 2021 presidential election but ultimately withdrew his candidacy in support of Raisi.[19] Zakani previously headed the Student Basij Organization during the crackdown on student protesters in July 1999.[20]
  • Mostafa Pour Mohammadi (Hardliner). Pour Mohammadi is a hardline politician and cleric from Qom.[21] Pour Mohammadi served as the Justice Minister under President Hassan Rouhani from 2013 to 2017.[22] Pour Mohammadi notoriously served with former President Ebrahim Raisi on the 1988 “Death Commission,” which approved the executions of thousands of political prisoners.[23]
  • Masoud Pezeshkian (Reformist): Pezeshkian is the sole reformist politician the Guardian Council permitted to run in the 2024 presidential election. Pezeshkian is an ethnic Azeri who has represented Tabriz, near the Iran-Azerbaijan border, from 2008 to present.[24] Pezeshkian was initially disqualified from running in the 2024 parliamentary elections, but the Guardian Council later permitted him to run. Pezeshkian has criticized the Iranian government over the issue of hijab enforcement.[25] Pezeshkian announced that Mohammad Javad Zarif would serve as his foreign minister should he be elected president.[26]

The candidacy of five Iranian hardliners risks an electoral challenge for the hardline camp, wherein the hardline votes could be split amongst the five candidates. The hardline camp may split its votes amongst the five hardline candidates, which would benefit the sole reformist candidate.[27] It is likely that some hardline candidates will withdraw from the election to prevent the vote from splitting. The moderate-reformist camp, by comparison, appears relatively united. Reform Front Spokesperson Javad Emam stated on June 8 that reformist politicians would not participate in the upcoming presidential election unless one of their candidates—including Masoud Pezeshkian—was approved.[28] Multiple elements of the reformist camp expressed support for reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian on June 10.[29]

The Guardian Council did not approve the candidacy of some high-profile politicians, including former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and adviser to the supreme leader Vahid Haghanian.[30] The disqualification of Larijani illustrates the increased isolation of the once-prominent Larijani family from the regime.[31] The Guardian Council also disqualified a close aide to supreme leader, Vahid Haghanian.[32] The disqualification of Haghanian illustrates that the regime is going as far as to reject elements of its own government that it has trusted for decades. These disqualifications emphasize the regime’s commitment to engineering who will be the next president by limiting the pool of approved candidates.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf’s advisers have spoken to Western diplomats in recent weeks, possibly to set conditions for the resumption of nuclear negotiations if he becomes president. An Iranian opposition outlet reported on June 10 that Ghalibaf’s advisers have talked to US and European diplomats over the past two weeks, citing an unspecified European diplomat.[33] The advisers have emphasized Ghalibaf’s willingness to “improve Iran’s relations with the rest of the world” and to “cleanse” the Iranian regime of “radical elements” during the advisers’ conversations with foreign officials.[34] The advisers have also emphasized that Ghalibaf would play a significant role in stabilizing the Iranian regime following Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s death.[35] Ghalibaf is one of six candidates the Guardian Council approved to compete in the June 28 presidential election.[36] Ghalibaf is a pragmatic hardliner who has previously called for limited political and economic reforms within the framework of the Islamic Republic.[37] Ghalibaf may be trying to signal to Western governments that his administration would be more willing than the hardline Ebrahim Raisi administration to conduct nuclear negotiations and conclude a new nuclear deal.

Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada warned on June 8 that it will resume attacks targeting US forces if US forces do not leave Iraq.[38] Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada spokesperson Kazem al Fartousi told Iraqi media that the militia will “return to military actions” if ongoing negotiations between the United States and Iraq do not lead to the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.[39] The United States and Iraq began talks to evaluate the status of the US-led international coalition in late January 2024.[40] A Lebanese Hezbollah–affiliated news outlet reported on May 25 that several Iranian-backed Iraqi militias believe the United States and Iraq have been "procrastinating” a decision to remove US forces from Iraq and are considering resuming attacks on US forces.[41] Iraqi media recently reported on June 5 that unspecified Iranian-backed Iraqi militias plan to renew their attacks targeting US forces if Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani does not set a deadline for a full US military withdrawal by July 15.[42]

An Israeli Army Radio correspondent highlighted some of the challenges that Israeli forces face intercepting drones targeting northern Israel in an X (Twitter) post on June 10.[43] The correspondent said that the drones are difficult for the IDF to intercept because of their short flight time from Lebanon to Israel. The close proximity between the drone launch sites and Israel makes it more difficult for the IDF to intercept the drones when compared to drone attacks against Israel from elsewhere in the Middle East. The long distance between Israel and Iran allowed Israel and its allies to detect and then intercept Iran’s incoming drones and missiles during Iran’s attack in April, for example.[44] The correspondent added that the drones launched from Lebanon fly low through challenging topography which makes them difficult to intercept.[45]

These challenges are particularly salient given the increased risk of a major war between Israel and Hezbollah in northern Israel. Hezbollah would likely use the lessons it is learning in its attacks on Israel to penetrate Israeli air defenses and strike critical infrastructure and civilian areas, including Haifa port. Hezbollah more than doubled its drone attacks targeting Israel between April and May 2024, though the group has used its drones to target Israel since the war began in October 2023.[46] The correspondent said that the IDF plans to place 20mm Vulcan cannons in several areas along the Israel-Lebanon border to counter the drones.[47]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iranian Presidential Elections: The Iranian Guardian Council approved six candidates including one reformist and five hardliners for the upcoming 2024 presidential election. The participation of five hardliners risks splitting the hardline vote, though some hardliners will probably withdraw from the election to prevent splitting the vote. The Guardian Council did not approve some top politicians, including former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.
  • Iran: Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf’s advisers have spoken to Western diplomats in recent weeks, possibly to set conditions for the resumption of nuclear negotiations if he becomes president.
  • Iraq: An Iranian-backed Iraqi militia warned on June 8 that it will resume attacks targeting US forces if US forces do not leave Iraq. Unspecified Iranian-backed militias in Iraq reportedly plan to renew attacks if the Iraqi prime minister does not set a deadline for a full US military withdrawal by May 15.
  • Lebanon: An Israeli Army Radio correspondent highlighted some of the challenges that Israeli forces face intercepting drones targeting northern Israel in an X (Twitter) post on June 10. These challenges are particularly salient given the increased risk of a major war between Israel and Hezbollah in northern Israel. Hezbollah would likely use the lessons it is learning in its attacks on Israel to penetrate Israeli air defenses and strike critical infrastructure and civilian areas, including Haifa port.
  • Ceasefire Negotiations: The United States is reportedly considering bilateral hostage talks with Hamas to free Americans from the Gaza Strip.
  • Gaza Strip: Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar is likely hiding in a “vast” tunnel system beneath Khan Younis, according to unspecified US officials speaking to the New York Times. 



Israeli War Cabinet minister Benny Gantz resigned from the coalition government on June 9.[1] Gantz said he resigned because of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conduct of the war in the Gaza Strip, which he believes is ”preventing [Israel] from reaching true victory.”[2] Gantz called for Netanyahu to set an election date for Fall 2024.[3] Gantz postponed the announcement, which was originally scheduled for June 8, after Israeli forces rescued four hostages from the Gaza Strip.[4] Gantz’s resignation will not on its own cause the collapse of the Netanyahu government.

The IDF expects to conclude clearing operations in Rafah in the “next few weeks,” according to an Israeli Army Radio correspondent.[5] The correspondent noted that the IDF will fully transfer to a targeted raid approach in the Gaza Strip after concluding the Rafah operation. The IDF transferred to a ”targeted raid” model in the northern Gaza Strip in late December 2023 after withdrawing five brigades and completing large-scale clearing operations in the northern Strip.[6] The IDF has repeatedly relaunched clearing operations into the northern Gaza Strip after transitioning to the raid model to degrade reconstituting Hamas forces.[7] CTP-ISW previously assessed that Hamas and other Palestinian militias would likely try to exploit the Israeli withdrawal to reconstitute militarily and reassert Hamas' governing authority in Khan Younis.[8] An Israeli transition to targeted raids in Rafah would be similarly exploited by Hamas.

The Guardian Council approved six candidates to participate in the June 28 Iranian presidential elections.[9] CTP-ISW will publish additional analysis on the approval of these candidates on June 10. These candidates include Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Raisi administration Vice President and Martyrs and Veteran Affairs Foundation Head Amir Hossein Ghazi Zadeh, Supreme National Security Council Supreme Leader Representative Saeed Jalili, Parliamentarian Masoud Pezeshkian, former prosecutor and Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi, and Tehran Mayor Ali Reza Zakani.

Pezeshkian is the only reformist politician whom the council permitted to run. The Guardian Council notably did not approve prominent moderate politician Ali Larijani--marking Larijani’s second consecutive disqualification--or Vahid Haghanian, a close aide to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.[10]

Key Takeaways:

  • Israel: Israeli War Cabinet minister Benny Gantz resigned from the coalition government on June 9. Gantz’s resignation will not on its own cause the collapse of the Netanyahu government.
  • Rafah: The IDF expects to conclude clearing operations in Rafah in the “next few weeks,” according to an Israeli Army Radio correspondent.
  • Iran: Iran’s Guardian Council approved six candidates to participate in the June 28 Iranian presidential elections. The council only approved one reformist politician, and it disqualified prominent moderate politician Ali Larijani for the second consecutive presidential election.
  • Lebanon: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least 10 attacks into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on June 8.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations across the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on June 8.
  • Yemen: A Houthi attack in the Arabian Sea on June 9 caused two ships to catch fire.
 

Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Israeli forces rescued four Hamas-held hostages during a complex operation in the central Gaza Strip.[1] Hamas captured the four hostages from the Nova music festival during the October 7 attack.[2] This marks the second successful rescue of living hostages by Israel during the war.[3] Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters during the rescue and Palestinian fighters killed one Israeli officer during the engagement.[4] Hamas fighters fired a man portable air defense system at an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) helicopter in Nuseirat, where the rescue occurred.[5] The IDF acknowledged the presence of civilians in the area and estimated the number of casualties to be under 100. Palestinian reports said that hundreds of civilians died during the rescue.[6] An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported that the IDF recently launched raids in eastern Bureij and eastern Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip prior to ”provide cover” for the rescue operation.[7] US officials speaking to Western media said that the United States provided some intelligence to support the hostage rescue operation.[8]

The spokesperson for Hamas’ military wing threatened to capture more hostages and noted that most hostages remain in Hamas’ hands in response to the Israeli hostage rescue.[9] Hamas referenced its May 2024 claims that it captured Israeli soldiers in Jabalia as evidence of its ability to take additional hostages.[10] The IDF has previously denied that Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier in Jabalia in May 2024.[11] Hamas also said that Israel killed other hostages while conducting the rescue.[12] Hamas stated that Israel’s rescue operation does not alter what it calls Israel’s “strategic failure” in the Gaza Strip.[13] Hamas commended its fighters who engaged Israeli forces during the rescue and criticized the United States for its involvement in the operation.[14]

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz canceled his June 8 speech, in which he was expected to announce his resignation from the coalition government.[15] He made this decision following the Israeli hostage rescue. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Gantz not to leave the government during ”this time for unity.”[16]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: The IDF rescued four hostages in an operation in Nuseirat, central Gaza Strip. Palestinian fighters killed one Israeli officer during the rescue. Separately, Israeli War Cabinet minister Benny Gantz canceled a speech in which he was expected to announce his resignation from the Israeli coalition government.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least six locations across the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on June 7.
  • Lebanon: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least 11 attacks into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on June 7.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM destroyed a Houthi patrol boat in the Red Sea on June 7.




Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, Johanna Moore, Kathryn Tyson, and Nicholas Carl
Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar indicated opposition to the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal, according to unspecified Arab officials. Sinwar stated that Hamas will only accept a proposal that guarantees a permanent ceasefire, which is one of the maximalist demands that Hamas has maintained since December 2023.[1] The current Israeli proposal provides provisions to meet Hamas’ demands but does not guarantee them. Sinwar’s comment comes amid international pressure on Hamas to accept the Israeli proposal. The United States has urged Egypt, Qatar, and Turkey to pressure Hamas to accept the proposal. An Israeli official indicated that “there will not be a better offer.”[2] US officials similarly said there is no backup plan if Hamas refuses the proposal.[3] Hamas has not delivered an official response to the proposal at the time of this writing.

Hamas seems unlikely to accept a proposal that does not meet its maximalist demands, which include a permanent ceasefire, the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, and a hostage-for-prisoner exchange. Hamas likely remains confident that it will survive Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip and can therefore maintain its maximalist demands without granting major concessions.

Some senior members of the Ebrahim Raisi administration are backing Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Esmaili in the upcoming Iranian presidential election. They have framed their support for Esmaili as meant to continue Raisi’s agenda. Fifteen senior officials signed a letter on June 7 urging the Guardian Council, which is responsible for vetting and approving electoral candidates, to allow Esmaili to compete in the election.[4] The officials praised Esmaili’s “intellectual, political, and managerial abilities and qualifications."[5] The letter’s signatories include the following:

  • Vice President for Executive Affairs Mohsen Mansouri
  • Vice President for Women’s Affairs Ensieh Khazali
  • Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Bagheri Kani
  • Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian
  • Oil Minister Javad Owji
  • Industry, Mines, and Trade Minister Abbas Ali Abadi
  • Agricultural Jihad Minister Mohammad Ali Nikbakht
  • Information and Communications Technology Minister Issa Zareh Pour
  • Environmental Protection Organization Director Ali Salajegheh
  • Administration and Employment Organization Director Meysam Latifi

Esmaili leads a faction affiliated with Raisi’s son-in-law, Mekdad Nili.[6] Mekdad’s brother, Meyshem Nili, and Mohsen Mansouri accompanied Esmaili when he registered for the presidential election on June 2.[7] Esmaili’s faction also includes Planning and Budget Organization Director Davoud Manzour and Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare Minister Solat Mortazavi.[8] Esmaili’s faction is reportedly competing against another faction in the Raisi administration that is led by Roads and Urban Development Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash.[9] Bazrpash has also registered as a candidate in the presidential election. Bazrpash’s faction includes Martyrs and Veterans Affairs Foundation President Amir Hossein Ghazi Zadeh Hashemi and is affiliated with Presidential Office Cultural Deputy Mehdi Mojahed.[10] Bazrpash, along with Interim President Mohammad Mokhber, did not sign the letter to the Guardian Council endorsing Esmaili.[11] Mortazavi, who is part of Esmaili’s faction, also notably did not sign the letter.[12]

Some elements in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) appear to be supporting Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf in the upcoming Iranian presidential election. IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency published an article on June 4 indirectly criticizing Ghalibaf’s competitor, Vahid Haghanian.[13] The article accused Haghanian of “unethically” using his relationship with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to advance his presidential campaign. The article was referencing that Haghanian has long worked in the Office of the Supreme Leader as a senior adviser to Khamenei. Haghanian responded to the article by vowing to end Iranian media’s “interference in internal politics” if he becomes president.[14] Reformist and opposition media attributed the attack on Haghanian to Tasnim News Agency supporting Ghalibaf in the upcoming election.[15] These reports are consistent with other reports that Tasnim News Agency has defended Ghalibaf against corruption allegations in recent months.[16]

Tasnim News Agency’s support for Ghalibaf could indicate that the top echelons of the IRGC also support him. Hamid Reza Moghadam Far, who is one of the outlet’s founders and current chairman of its board of directors, serves as a cultural and media adviser to IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami.[17] The close relationship between Moghadam Far and Salami suggests that there is a broader IRGC effort to help Ghalibaf win the presidency. Tasnim News Agency has notably left an article of Salami congratulating Ghalibaf on his reelection as parliament speaker on its politics home page since May 28.[18]

It would be unsurprising for significant elements in the IRGC to support Ghalibaf in the presidential race. Ghalibaf has decades-old ties to many senior IRGC officers dating back to their time fighting Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1980s. Ghalibaf is moreover part of a close circle of current and former IRGC officers who have repeatedly come together in times of domestic crisis to interfere in Iranian domestic politics.

US State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller said on June 6 that the United States is concerned that Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani does not control fully the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).[19] Miller’s statement is consistent with CTP-ISW’s assessment that Iran has infiltrated the PMF extensively and uses it to exert significant influence in Iraq.[20] The PMF and the Iranian-backed Iraqi militias that comprise it answer to Iran—not the Iraqi prime minister. Iranian-backed militias under the PMF paused attacks targeting US forces in January 2024 after IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani ordered them to stop.[21] Iraqi Kurdish media reported on June 5 that some Iranian-backed Iraqi militias plan to renew their attacks targeting US forces in Iraq if Sudani does not set a deadline for a full US military withdrawal by the end of a 40-day deadline.[22]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar indicated opposition to the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal. Hamas seems unlikely to accept a proposal that does not meet its maximalist demands.
  • Iran: Some elements in the IRGC appear to be supporting Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf in the upcoming Iranian presidential election. This support is unsurprising given Ghalibaf’s deep connections to the IRGC.
  • Iraq: The US State Department said that it is concerned that the Iraqi prime minister does not control fully the Iraqi PMF. Iran has infiltrated the PMF extensively and uses it to exert significant influence in Iraq.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM destroyed two Houthi uncrewed surface vessels and intercepted eight Houthi drones in the Red Sea.
 
 

Iran Update, June 6, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

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

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Iranian hardline officials are continuing to try to promote an electoral consensus among hardliners ahead of the June 28 presidential election. These efforts probably seek to avoid infighting between Iranian hardliners that could provide an opening for a more moderate candidate to win the presidency. Former IRGC Commander Mohsen Rezaei called for “synergy and unity” among hardliners in a Twitter (X) post on June 5.[1] Rezaei similarly called for a "consensus” among "revolutionary forces” during a meeting with Martyrs and Veterans Affairs Foundation President Amir Hossein Ghazi Zadeh Hashemi and Parliamentary Economic Committee Chairman Mohammad Reza Pour Ebrahimi on June 4.[2] Hardline politician Gholam Ali Haddad Adel separately called on hardliners on June 6 to support a single candidate in the upcoming election.[3] Haddad Adel warned that hardliners could suffer a “defeat” in the election if they support a “plurality of candidates.”[4] Haddad Adel added that supporting a “plurality of candidates” could lead to a repeat of the 2013 presidential election in which a reformist candidate, Hassan Rouhani, won the presidency.[5]

Hamas reportedly said that it will reject the Israeli ceasefire proposal, arguing that the proposal does not ensure a permanent end to hostilities.[6] Saudi-based media obtained a copy of a Hamas memo to other Palestinian militias in which Hamas explained that Hamas did not accept the proposal because it is "fundamentally different" from the proposal that US President Joe Biden outlined on May 31.[7] Hamas said that it is committed to the proposal it accepted on May 6. Egypt unilaterally modified the May 6 proposal to include a permanent end to hostilities.[8] Hamas has previously said that it will not accept a ceasefire that does not ensure a permanent ceasefire after the completion of the initial phase of the proposal.[9] Hamas does not view any ceasefire as permanent and believes that any truce that ends before Israel’s destruction is a temporary truce.[10] The United States said on June 6 that Hamas has not delivered an official response to the Israeli proposal.[11]

Hamas’ reported rejection follows several reports that negotiations involving Israel, Hamas, and international mediators were showing no signs of a breakthrough.[12] Unspecified Egyptian sources said the mediators were attempting to reassure Hamas that the proposal would lead to an end to the fighting and full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.[13]

Hamas will likely continue to reject ceasefire proposals if the proposal fails to secure Hamas’ maximalist objectives, which include a permanent ceasefire. Hamas remains confident that it can survive Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, and it can therefore pursue its maximalist demands without major concessions. Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said in February that his military forces are in good condition and would survive a Rafah operation and he was in no rush to secure an agreement in early May.[14] CTP-ISW has previously noted that Hamas’ confidence in its survival increased and its ceasefire demands appear to have solidified as the IDF drew down its forces in the Gaza Strip beginning in late December 2023.[15]

Hamas attempted to infiltrate Israel using a tunnel 200 meters from the Israel-Gaza Strip border in Rafah.[16] Four Palestinian fighters armed with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) emerged from the tunnel under the cover of a thick fog.[17] Israeli forces engaged the Palestinian fighters in a fire fight and directed a drone and tank to engage the fighters.[18] The IDF killed three of the four Palestinian fighters 400 meters from the Israeli border in the Gaza Strip.[19] The fourth Hamas fighter fled into Rafah.[20] One Israeli soldier died during the incident.[21] Palestinian fighters have very rarely attempted to infiltrate Israeli territory since the October 7, 2023, attack.

Unspecified US and Israeli officials said in a June 6 Reuters report that Hamas has lost half of its forces and is currently using insurgent tactics.[22] Three senior US officials familiar with battlefield developments said that Hamas’ numbers have decreased from an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 before the conflict to between 9,000 and 12,000 fighters at present.[23] US intelligence previously estimated that Hamas has lost 30 to 35 percent of its fighters, and Israeli intelligence previously estimated that Hamas had as many as 30,000 to 40,000 fighters prior to the war.[24] An IDF spokesperson acknowledged that destroying Hamas as a governing authority is “an achievable and attainable military objective,” instead of attempting to kill every Hamas fighter.[25] Israeli officials have previously said that Israel’s war objectives are to destroy Hamas as a military organization and governing authority.[26]

One of the officials said that Hamas is avoiding direct battles with Israeli forces, preferring to ambush the IDF and using improvised explosive devices against Israeli forces.[27] A Gazan resident noted that Hamas previously immediately engaged Israeli forces as they advanced, but now Hamas is waiting for the IDF to enter the IDF’s target area before attacking.[28] An Israeli officer similarly noted that Hamas allows the IDF to advance into a target area before Hamas begins to engage the IDF.[29] Hamas fighters have previously employed similar “insurgent” tactics, however. An Israeli Army Radio correspondent said that Israeli forces encountered significant militia “resistance” in Zaytoun but not en route to Zaytoun in February 2024.[30] US officials estimate that Hamas can sustain such tactics “for months,” given Hamas’ ability to access weapons smuggled into the Strip via tunnels as well as additional weapons and ordinance captured from the IDF.[31]

A US official told Reuters that the Palestinian militias are withdrawing rapidly after attacks, taking cover, regrouping, before appearing in areas where Israeli forces are absent.[32] CTP-ISW has previously observed that Palestinian militias withdraw into areas where Israeli forces are absent to rest and reconstitute.[33] This complicates Israeli efforts to conduct repeated raids, as Palestinian fighters can withdraw from the areas that the IDF targets if the Palestinian fighters are at risk of being destroyed.

Unspecified Iranian-backed Iraqi militias issued a 40-day deadline for Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani to set a date for a US troop withdrawal from Iraq according to an “informed [Iraqi] political source” cited by an Iraqi Kurdish news outlet on June 5.[34] The ultimatum warned that the Iranian-backed Iraqi militias would resume attacks targeting US forces if Sudani fails to meet the 40-day deadline. A Lebanese Hezbollah–affiliated news outlet reported on May 25 that several Iranian-backed Iraqi militias believe the United States and Iraq have been "procrastinating” a decision to remove US forces from Iraq and are considering resuming attacks on US forces.[35] Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Forces Commander Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani ordered Iranian-backed Iraqi militias to suspend attacks on US forces in January 2024.[36] Some militias, including Kataib Hezbollah, fiercely resisted the order. The Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have not changed their long-standing objective to expel US forces from Iraq and Syria and retain the capabilities to resume their attack campaign at any time.[37] Kataib Hezbollah has been driving efforts to resume attacks on US forces since at least April 2024 after their resistance to Ghaani‘s original stand-down order in January.[38] Various Iranian-backed Iraqi actors, including the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, have also warned that Iranian-backed militias will resume attacks on US forces if the United States and Iraq fail to set a timely date for a US troop withdrawal.[39] This report in Iraqi media did not make clear whether individual Iranian-backed Iraqi militias or the Islamic Resistance in Iraq as a whole issued this ultimatum. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq is a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias that conducted attacks targeting US forces between October 2023 and January 2024, but many of the coalition’s constituent militias have attacked US forces prior to the current war.

The Houthis claimed on June 6 that they conducted a combined operation targeting Israel with Iranian-backed Iraqi militias as part of their effort to impose an unofficial blockade.[40] The Houthis said that they conducted a combined operation with the Islamic Resistance in Iraq targeting three ships near Haifa port, Israel, on June 6, including one ship that the Houthis said violated their unofficial blockade on Israel.[41] The IDF has not acknowledged any such attacks and CTP-ISW cannot verify this claim at the time of this writing. Both the Houthis and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq have targeted shipping companies for transporting goods to Israel ports overland or by sea.[42] Iran and its Houthi partners have begun to articulate an aspiration to increase their ability to target Israel’s economy through military action, including by using drones and missiles to discourage shipping from traveling to Israeli ports.[43] Iran and its militia partners cannot likely impose a blockade using drone and missile attacks in the near term, given that the Houthis and other Iranian-backed groups have not yet proven that they can successfully fire missiles and drones into the Mediterranean Sea at a rate sufficient to impose costs on the Israeli economy.[44] But Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” likely believe that a severe economic disruption would compel Israeli leaders to accept defeat in the Gaza Strip and that such pressure could ultimately collapse the Israeli state.[45]

The combined attacks come shortly after a flurry of engagements across the Axis of Resistance to promote cooperation against Israel. Houthi supreme leader Abdulmalik al Houthi called on Iranian-backed Iraqi militias to join the Houthis in attacking international shipping in the Mediterranean Sea during a speech on May 16.[46] The secretary general of Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah held a phone call with Houthi supreme leader Abdulmalik al Houthi on May 24 to discuss the war, including coordination and force readiness.[47] Such engagements demonstrate that members of the Iranian-led Axis of Resistance are continuing to coordinate their actions during the Israel-Hamas war.

The combined Houthi-Iraqi militia attack reflects the broader desire of the Axis of Resistance to operate and present itself as an interoperable coalition. The claimed attacks highlight how Iran and its Axis of Resistance seek to function as a coalition to achieve its goals against Israel.[48] The Axis of Resistance has also seemingly attempted to present itself as an interoperable coalition at other junctures in the war. Houthi supreme leader Abdulmalik al Houthi said on October 10 that the Houthis were “coordinating” with the Axis of Resistance to decide when and how to enter the war, and both the Houthis and Iraqi groups began their respective attack campaigns on October 18, one day after the al Ahli Hospital explosion.[49] This coordination is emblematic of Iran’s vision for the Axis of Resistance, which Iran sees as its unconventional alliance of like-minded actors united by anti-US and anti-Israeli ideologies.[50] This strategic alignment helps Iran and Iranian-backed groups accomplish their shared objectives, such as the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of US influence from the region.

The Houthis released a video on June 5 that shows the Houthis firing a likely Iranian-supplied missile that it used to target Eilat, southern Israel, on June 3.[51] The Houthis said that its Palestine missile is “locally made,” but the missile bears visual similarities to the Iranian Kheiber Shekan ballistic missile.[52] Iran originally unveiled the Khiber Shekan in February 2022.[53] Associated Press reported that the Palestine missile uses solid fuel as opposed to liquid fuel.[54] The Kheiber Shekan is also a solid fuel missile.[55] A Syrian Arab Army affiliated source also reported that the Palestine missile resembles the Kheiber Shekan missile.[56]

Palestinian fighters are likely maintaining at least one vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) manufacturing cell northeast of Tubas. Unidentified Palestinian fighters detonated a VBIED approximately one kilometer from the IDF’s Tayasir checkpoint in Tubas on June 6.[57] The VBIED exploded in an open area and there were no casualties.[58] There are no obvious targets in the area where the Palestinian fighters detonated the VBIED, and the IDF is investigating whether this incident was a failed attempt to detonate the VBIED at the Tayasir checkpoint.[59] No Palestinian militia has claimed the attack as of this writing. Palestinian fighters have deployed at least five VBIED attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern West Bank since the Israel-Hamas war began in October 2023.[60] Four of those attacks took place near Tubas.[61]

Palestinian militias in Tubas may be collaborating to assemble and deploy these VBIEDs, given the significant amount of resources and expertise required to manufacture a VBIED. It is unclear how sophisticated or well-manufactured these VBIEDs are, especially because the VBIED used in this attack appears to have detonated before its operators intended. An Israeli military correspondent noted that IED attacks of an “unprecedented nature” have appeared in the West Bank in recent months.[62]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iranian Presidential Elections: Iranian hardline officials are continuing to try to promote an electoral consensus among hardliners ahead of the June 28 presidential election as part of an effort to avoid infighting between hardliners that could provide an opening for a moderate victory.
  • Ceasefire Negotiations: Hamas reportedly said that it will reject the Israeli ceasefire proposal, arguing that the proposal does not ensure a permanent end to hostilities. Hamas will continue to reject proposals until it secures a “permanent ceasefire.” Hamas does not acknowledge the legitimacy of any permanent ceasefire and has repeatedly said that any ceasefire is temporary until Hamas destroys Israel.
  • Gaza Strip: An Israeli official said that Hamas is avoiding direct battles with Israeli forces, preferring to ambush the IDF and using improvised explosive devices against Israeli forces
  • Yemen: The Houthis claimed on June 6 that they conducted a combined operation targeting Israel with Iranian-backed Iraqi militias as part of their effort to impose an unofficial blockade. This blockade is unlikely to be successful, given that the Houthis have so far been unable to successfully attack Israeli shipping in the Mediterranean at a sufficient rate to impact imports or exports from Mediterranean ports.
  • Iraq: Iranian-backed Iraqi militias reportedly set a 40-day deadline for the Iraqi prime minister to expel US forces from Iraq.
  • West Bank: Palestinian fighters are likely maintaining at least one vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) manufacturing cell northeast of Tubas. Palestinian militias in Tubas may be collaborating to assemble and deploy these VBIEDs, given the significant amount of resources and expertise required to manufacture a VBIED.

Iran Update, June 4, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, Kelly Campa, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

A senior Hamas official responded negatively on June 4 to the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal for the Gaza Strip. Hamas appears unlikely to accept a proposal that does not meet the maximalist demands that Hamas has maintained since December 2023. Hamas Political Bureau member Osama Hamdan said Hamas cannot agree to a proposal that does not guarantee a permanent ceasefire, the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, and a hostage-for-prisoner exchange.[1] Hamdan called on international mediators to obtain a clear Israeli commitment to these demands. Hamdan added that all Palestinian factions share Hamas’ position. Hamas remains confident that it will survive Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip and can therefore maintain its maximalist demands without granting major concessions.

The current Israeli proposal provides provisions to meet Hamas’ demands but does not guarantee them. An anonymous Israeli official told Israeli media that “there will not be a better offer” than the current Israeli proposal that Hamas is reviewing.[2] US President Joe Biden outlined the three phases of the proposal as follows:[3]

  • Phase one involves a six-week ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip. Hamas would release an unspecified number of hostages,
    including Americans, women, and elderly and sick individuals, as well as the bodies of hostages in exchange for “hundreds” of Palestinian prisoners in this phase. Displaced Palestinian civilians would return to their homes, including those in the northern Gaza Strip. Humanitarian aid would “surge with 600 trucks [entering the Gaza Strip] per day” as well. Negotiations for a permanent ceasefire would continue during this phase.
  • Phase two involves Hamas and other Palestinian militias releasing all remaining living hostages and Israeli forces withdrawing from the Gaza Strip completely. Biden said that the United States, Egypt, and Qatar would ensure that negotiations continue during this phase.
  • Phase three involves major reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip. It also involves Hamas and the other militias returning the bodies of all hostages to Israel.

Axios reported that some Israeli officials are concerned that recent remarks from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could disrupt ceasefire negotiations.[4] Netanyahu stated that Israel will not agree to a ceasefire until Hamas is destroyed.[5] Some Israeli officials are concerned that these comments could signal to Hamas that Israel only wants a temporary pause in the fighting rather than a permanent ceasefire.[6] The proposal includes two clauses with vague language that would allow both sides to begin the first phase of the deal and progress into phase two as long as talks persist.[7] Axios noted that the ambiguous phrasing could allow fighting to resume after the first phase without meaningful progress toward an end to the war.[8] Netanyahu has said that he wants to retain the option to resume fighting should negotiations falter and that Israel could initiate the first phase of the ceasefire proposal without a follow-on agreement for a permanent ceasefire, according to Israeli media.[9]

US President Joe Biden said on June 3 that Hamas is the only obstacle to a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.[10] Biden told the Qatari emir that Israel is ready to initiate the ceasefire deal. Biden also said in an interview with Time that the Israeli proposal was “very generous” regarding which Palestinian prisoners Israel would release in exchange for Hamas-held hostages.[11] The Qatari Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson said on June 4 that Qatar has delivered the latest Israeli proposal to Hamas.[12]

Kataib Hezbollah, which is a prominent Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, called for a boycott of US businesses in Iraq and implied support for recent attacks targeting these businesses.[13] KH spokesperson Abu Ali al Askari called for the boycott in a statement on June 3. Askari accused US businesses of working as fronts for US intelligence services. Askari’s statement comes amid a series of attacks on US and UK companies in Iraq in recent days. Unidentified assailants have stormed and thrown explosives at these businesses, including Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurants. damaging and vandalizing their property.[14] Local reporting claims that some of the assailants are KH members.[15]

Askari separately called on Iraqi security forces personnel to refuse to comply with US instruction in operations against the so-called “Islamic State” (IS). US advisory forces under Operation Inherent Resolve advise Iraqi security forces on air operations, intelligence, logistics, planning, and targeting through the Joint Operations Command.[16] The US Defense Department has said that Iraqi security forces rely on US support for counter-IS operations.[17] Iraqi security forces personnel refusing to follow US instruction would undermine combined US-Iraqi counterterrorism operations.

Senior officials tied to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are supporting Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf in the Iranian presidential election. Iranian media reported on June 4 that former IRGC Commander Mohsen Rezaei and Interim President Mohammad Mokhber recently met with Ghalibaf and expressed support for his candidacy.[18] Their backing alleviated Ghalibaf’s “doubts” about running, according to the Iranian reports.[19] The Telegraph similarly reported that IRGC factions, including former IRGC Air Force Commander Hossein Dehghan, are supporting Ghalibaf.[20] Dehghan is currently a senior adviser for defense industrial policy to the Iranian supreme leader. The Telegraph reported that individuals close to Dehghan ”are contacting everyone they know” to improve Ghalibaf’s chances. Ghalibaf—like Rezaei and Dehghan—is himself a former IRGC commander. Ghalibaf headed the IRGC Air Force from 1997 to 2000. He also has deep personal ties dating back to the Iran-Iraq War to many senior officers in the Iranian security establishment.[21]

Ghalibaf and other prominent figures are apparently focused on preventing Saeed Jalili in particular from winning the election. The Telegraph reported that some IRGC factions are trying to prevent Jalili from winning because they consider him too extreme politically.[22] Jalili serves as one of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s personal representatives to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and was the SNSC secretary from 2007 to 2013. A former official from the Iranian Interior Ministry told the Telegraph that individuals close to Ghalibaf oppose Jalili and “are contacting everyone they know to block Jalili.” An Iranian opposition outlet similarly reported in May 2024 that elements in the regime tried to convince Khamenei to prevent Jalili from competing in the election.[23] These elements included Ghalibaf as well as other hardliners, such as Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Sadegh Amoli Larijani and senior adviser to the supreme leader Ali Shamkhani. These elements also included some moderates, such as Ali Larijani, who is the brother of Sadegh.

Ghalibaf and Jalili were previously at odds during the Mahsa Amini protest movement in Iran in late 2022. Ghalibaf accused Jalili of adopting too harsh a stance vis-a-vis the protests and exacerbating frustrations among disaffected Iranian youth.[24] Ghalibaf contrastingly called for limited economic and political reforms to address protester grievances. Ghalibaf could use this contrast to appeal to more moderate elements in the Iranian political establishment.

Two factions from the Ebrahim Raisi administration are vying for the Iranian presidency, according to Iranian media.[25] These factions revolve around Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Esmaili and Roads and Urban Development Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash, both of whom registered as candidates for the election. Esmaili’s faction includes Planning and Budget Organization Director Davoud Manzour and Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare Minister Solat Mortazavi. Bazrpash’s faction includes Martyrs and Veterans Affairs Foundation President Amir Hossein Ghazi Zadeh Hashemi.

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: A senior Hamas official responded negatively to the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal for the Gaza Strip. Hamas appears unlikely to accept a proposal that does not meet the maximalist demands that Hamas has maintained since December 2023.
  • Iraq: A prominent Iranian-backed Iraqi militia called for a boycott of US businesses in Iraq and implied its support for recent attacks targeting these businesses.
  • Iran: Senior officials tied to the IRGC are supporting Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf in the Iranian presidential election.
  • West Bank: Palestinian militias have continued trying to attack and threaten Israeli towns adjacent to the West Bank.
  • Yemen: The Houthis announced that they recently fired a ballistic missile from Yemen toward Israel.

Iran Update, June 3, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, Andie Parry, Kathryn Tyson, Kelly Campa, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Hardliners overwhelmingly dominate the candidate pool for the upcoming Iranian presidential election. The registration period for the election ended on June 3, and 80 individuals registered to compete in the election.[1] The Guardian Council—a regime body responsible for supervising elections and approving candidates—will vet candidates between June 4 and 10, and the Interior Ministry will then announce the final list of presidential candidates on June 11.[2] The Guardian Council has historically disqualified moderate and reformist figures to advantage hardline candidates.[3]

The following individuals registered between June 1 and 3:

  • Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf.[4] Ghalibaf is a hardline politician who has served as Iran’s parliament speaker since 2020.[5] Parliamentarians recently re-elected Ghalibaf as parliament speaker on May 28.[6] Ghalibaf is a long-time member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), having served as the IRGC Air Force commander between 1997 and 2000.[7] He is a very well-connected politician who maintains close personal relationships with the highest echelons of the IRGC dating back to the Iran-Iraq War.[8] Ghalibaf also served as Iran’s police chief between 2000 and 2005.[9]
  • Vahid Haghanian.[10] Haghanian is a close aide to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Haghanian serves as Khamenei’s Executive Deputy and Deputy for Special Affairs and acts as a liaison between Khamenei’s office and senior Iranian politicians.[11] Iranian media noted on June 3 that Haghanian has “always been present in the Supreme Leader’s inner circle.”[12] The US Treasury Department sanctioned Haghanian in 2019 for acting on behalf of Khamenei’s office and noted that Haghanian “has been referred to as the Supreme Leader’s right hand.”[13] The US Treasury Department added that Haghanian is a former military commander and usually accompanies Khamenei on social engagements.[14] Haghanian emphasized on June 1 that it was his “personal decision” to register for the upcoming presidential election.[15]
  • Zohreh Elahian, Hamida Zarabadi, and Hajar Chenarani.[16] Three women registered for the upcoming presidential election. The Guardian Council has never allowed a woman to compete in a presidential election.[17] Elahian is a hardline politician and a former member of the Parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee.[18] The Canadian government sanctioned Elahian in March 2024 for supporting the dealth penalty of protesters involved in the Mahsa Amini movement.[19] Zarabadi is a reformist politician who represents Qazvin Province’s Qazvin, Abyek, and Alborz districts in Parliament.[20] Zarabadi stated on June 3 that her cabinet would be composed of men and women representing every ethnicity, religion, and class if she became president.[21]
  • Mehrdad Bazrpash and Mohammad Esmaili.[22] Two current Ebrahim Raisi administration officials registered for the upcoming presidential election. Bazrpash currently serves as Iran’s roads and urban development minister and Esmaili serves as Iran’s culture and Islamic guidance minister. Bazrpash previously headed Iran’s two largest car manufacturing companies, SAIPA and Pars Khodrow.[23] The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada announced coordinated sanctions against Esmaili on the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death in September 2023 for his role in enforcing the mandatory veiling law.[24]
  • Ali Reza Zakani.[25] Zakani is a hardline politician who has served as the mayor of Tehran since 2021.[26] The Guardian Council barred Zakani from running in the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections.[27] Zakani competed in the 2021 presidential election but ultimately withdrew his candidacy in support of Raisi.[28] Zakani previously headed the Student Basij Organization during the crackdown on student protesters in July 1999.[29]
  • Eshaq Jahangiri.[30] Jahangiri is a reformist politician who served as Iran’s first vice president under former President Hassan Rouhani between 2013 and 2021.[31] Jahangiri withdrew from the 2017 election in support of Rouhani.[32] The Guardian Council barred Jahangiri from competing in the 2021 presidential election.[33]
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[34] Ahmadinejad is a hardline politician who served as Iran’s president between 2005 and 2013.[35] The Guardian Council barred Ahmadinejad from competing in the 2017 and 2021 presidential elections.[36]

Iran is continuing to increase its enriched uranium stockpile, according to a statement by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi during an IAEA Border of Governors meeting on June 3.[37] Grossi stated that the IAEA had not been able to access Iranian nuclear sites for over three years and that Iran had made no progress in resolving outstanding safeguards issues. Safeguards are IAEA activities that enable the IAEA to verify that a state is not using its nuclear programs for nuclear-weapons purposes.”[38] Grossi added that “public statements made in Iran” made about Iran’s ability “to produce nuclear weapons and possible changes to Iran’s nuclear doctrine” increased his concerns about the “correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations.”[39] Iranian officials have increasingly normalized discussions about Iran’s ability to procure a nuclear weapon in recent months, as CTP previously reported.[40]

The Associated Press cited a confidential IAEA report on May 27 that reported that Iran increased its stockpile of 60 percent enriched uranium from 121.5 kilograms to 142.1 kilograms (a 16.95 percent increase).[41] Weapons-grade uranium is uranium that is enriched to 90 percent purity. A US expert noted on May 28 that, based on the confidential IAEA report, Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium (WGU) for almost eight nuclear weapons in the first month after breakout.[42]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on June 3 that Israel will not agree to a permanent ceasefire until Israel achieves its war objectives.[43] US President Joe Biden outlined the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal and encouraged both Hamas and Israel to accept it during a speech on May 31.[44] He said that the proposal includes an initial six-week ceasefire with a partial Israeli military withdrawal and the release of some hostages while Hamas and Israel negotiate a permanent end to hostilities.[45] Netanyahu said on June 3 that Biden’s outline of the proposal was only “partial.”[46] Israel has confirmed that it approves the proposal that Biden outlined but insisted that a permanent ceasefire is only possible once Israel achieves its war objectives.[47] Two right-wing members of Netanyahu‘s coalition have threatened to dissolve the Israeli government if Netanyahu agrees to end the war.[48] Netanyahu said that Israel is insisting that a second phase of the ceasefire can begin only after there is an agreement on the terms of the complete ceasefire.[49] This would allow Israel to retain the right to resume fighting in the Gaza Strip as long as Israel views that the negotiations are futile. Netanyahu said during a closed-door parliamentary meeting that Israel could initiate the first phase of the proposal without an agreement on what follows.[50]

Hamas official Suheil al Hindi told The Washington Post on June 3 that Hamas is still discussing the ceasefire proposal that Biden presented.[51] Hamas told international mediators that it wants a detailed proposal that reflects the one Biden presented in his speech.[52] Hamas officials told international mediators that the latest Israeli proposal described a period of “sustainable calm“ in ambiguous terms, suggesting that Hamas was not confident that the “sustainable calm“ would secure Hamas‘ key demand, a permanent ceasefire.[53] Hamas stated on May 31 that it is willing to engage "positively and constructively" with the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal, so long as it meets Hamas’ maximalist demands.[54] Qatar sent the Israeli proposal to Hamas on May 30.[55] A senior US official mentioned that the proposal is "nearly identical" to one presented by Hamas three weeks prior before that proposal was unilaterally altered by Egyptian intelligence.[56] Hamas has not issued an official response to the Israeli proposal at the time of writing.

Hamas may reject the agreement if the agreement fails to secure Hamas’ maximalist objectives, which include a permanent ceasefire. Hamas remains confident that it can survive Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, and it can therefore pursue its maximalist demands without major concessions. CTP-ISW has previously noted that Hamas’ confidence in its survival increased, and its ceasefire demands appear to have solidified as the IDF drew down its forces in the Gaza Strip beginning in late December 2023.[57] Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar expressed confidence in February 2024, stating that Hamas is "doing fine" amid Israeli clearing operations.[58] Sinwar conveyed to Arab mediators in early May 2024 that he is in no hurry to end the war, as it is drawing international condemnation of Israel and reviving the Palestinian national cause.[59]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and War Cabinet member Benny Gantz on June 2.[60] Blinken commended Israel for its latest ceasefire proposal and emphasized that Hamas should accept the deal without delay.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on June 2 that Israel is assessing an alternative governing authority to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.[61] Gallant stated that Israel will isolate areas in the Gaza Strip, remove Hamas operatives, and bring in other forces to enable an alternative government. He emphasized that Israel will not accept Hamas’ rule.[62] Hamas will violently resist and undermine alternative governing authorities that do not include it. An Israeli intelligence source confirmed on June 1 that Hamas killed the head of a local clan in the Gaza Strip, disrupting an Israeli plan to replace Hamas as the primary governing authority.[63]

Key Takeaways:

 

  • Iranian Presidential Elections: Hardliners overwhelmingly dominate the candidate pool for the upcoming Iranian presidential election. Current Parliament Speaker and former IRGC Air Force commander Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and close Khamenei aide Vahid Haghanian both registered for the election between June 1 and 3.
  • Ceasefire Negotiations: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel will not agree to a permanent ceasefire until Israel achieves its war objectives. Hamas may reject the agreement if the agreement fails to secure Hamas’ maximalist objectives, which include a permanent ceasefire.
  • Post-War Gaza Strip: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on June 2 that Israel is assessing an alternative governing authority to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Hamas will violently resist and undermine alternative governing authorities that do not include it.
  • West Bank: Palestinian fighters continue to seek to attack Israeli towns from the West Bank.
  • Northern Israel: An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported on June 3 that the IDF faces challenges intercepting drones targeting northern Israel. Other military forces, including the US Army, have also encountered challenges combatting Iranian-made drones in the Middle East.
  • Yemen: The Houthis likely launched a ballistic missile from the Red Sea targeting Israel on June 3. The IDF’s Arrow ballistic missile defense system intercepted the Houthi missile.

Iran Update, June 2, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, Alexandra Braverman, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: Israeli forces launched a raid targeting Palestinian militias in Sabra and Zaytoun neighborhoods of Gaza City.
  • Political Negotiations: Hamas stated that it will engage the latest Israeli proposal constructively, so long as the proposal meets Hamas’ maximalist demands.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in eight locations across the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted 11 attacks into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed a drone attack targeting Israel.
  • Yemen: The Houthis claimed six drone and missile attacks targeting commercial and US naval 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 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on June 1 that it launched a raid into the Sabra and Zaytoun neighborhoods of Gaza City.[1] Israeli forces have conducted multiple operations in this area of Gaza City throughout the war.[2] The IDF deployed its joint special operations multidimensional unit and two reserve brigades under the 99th Division for the raid.[3] The IDF said on June 2 that the multi-dimensional unit cooperated with the IDF Air Force to attack a Palestinian militia squad in a building.[4] The IDF 99th Division is currently operating along the Netzarim Corridor, which the IDF uses to launch raids against Hamas fighters and infrastructure in the northern and central Gaza Strip.[5] Palestinian militias conducted attacks targeting Israeli forces along the corridor and in Sabra.[6] CTP-ISW has previously stated that Hamas exploits the IDF raid-based model to protect Palestinian forces and facilitate reconstitution efforts.[7]

Israeli forces continued clearing operations in several sectors of Rafah on June 2. The IDF confirmed that its Givati Brigade has advanced into the Yabna refugee camp.[8] Palestinian militias have claimed several attacks targeting Israeli forces around the camp since May 28.[9] The IDF said on May 31 that its units are operating in central Rafah, where the camp is located.[10] Israeli forces located weapons in the camp, including anti-aircraft machine guns.[11] Israeli forces engaged Palestinians fighters near the Philadelphi Corridor, of which the IDF said it took control on May 29.[12]

Unspecified US and Israeli officials said that Israel adjusted its military operations in Rafah to avoid crossing the US Joe Biden administration’s red lines.[13] Israel originally planned to deploy two divisions to conduct clearing operations in Rafah.[14] The United States expressed concern that such action could increase civilian casualties significantly.[15] President 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.[16] The latest reporting is consistent with other reports that Israel was planning a limited attack targeting Hamas in Rafah and that the IDF is moving “more deliberately” in Rafah.[17]

Hamas stated on May 31 that it is willing to engage "positively and constructively" with the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal, so long as it meets Hamas’ maximalist demands.[18] Hamas restated that its demands are a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, the return of displaced Palestinians, and a “genuine” prisoner swap deal.[19] Hamas was responding to a speech on May 31 from US President Joe Biden, who urged Hamas to accept the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal. The proposal outlines three phases that include the withdrawal of Israeli forces and a permanent ceasefire.[20] Biden did not specify how many Israeli hostages or Palestinian prisoners would be released in this proposal, nor did he specify the length of phases two and three. Hamas’ response to the speech does not necessarily reflect a change in its position.

US officials stated that Biden's speech aimed to garner international support for the proposal and increase pressure on Hamas to accept the deal.[21] Biden warned that Hamas’ rejection of the proposal could lead to an escalation of the war. A senior US official mentioned that the proposal is "nearly identical" to one presented by Hamas three weeks prior.[22] The United States, Qatar, and Egypt published a joint statement on June 2 calling for Israel and Hamas to agree to the ceasefire proposal that Biden referenced in his speech.[23]  

Israel confirmed on June 1 that it agreed with the framework of the ceasefire proposal that President Biden described.[24] Ophir Falk, who is a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, confirmed that Israeli approves the deal but also noted that a permanent ceasefire would only be possible once Israel achieves all its war aims. US officials expressed optimism, noting that Israel did not oppose Biden's speech or dispute that it accurately reflected the latest Israeli proposal.[25]

An Israeli intelligence source confirmed on June 2 that Hamas killed a clan leader in the Gaza Strip, disrupting an Israeli plan to replace Hamas as the primary governing authority in the strip.[26] Israel tried to persuade the Dughmush clan to assume responsibility from Hamas. The clan leaders were reportedly open to such discussions.[27] Hamas then killed the clan leader, which CTP-ISW assessed at the time was meant to reassert Hamas control of the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli security analyst Ronen Solomon noted that no other force in the southern Gaza Strip is as powerful as the Dughmush clan. Senior Israeli officials are now working to find credible alternative rulers for the strip, aiming to persuade younger, more moderate Fatah members to govern and coexist with Israel.[28] Hamas has been rebuilding its military and governing authority in the northern Gaza Strip since Israeli forces reduced their presence in December 2023. Hamas has a long history of violently suppressing political opposition in Gaza, and this incident highlights its determination to thwart Israeli efforts to replace it.

Palestinian militias conducted two indirect fire attacks into Israel on June 2.[29] The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine fired rockets at an IDF site.[30] The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine fired rockets at Israeli forces near the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip.[31] 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 eight locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on June 1.[32]

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 into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on June 1.[33] The IDF intercepted an aerial target in northern Israel, which caused alarms near Nahariya.[34] Neither Hezbollah nor a Palestinian militia has claimed responsibility for the attack at the time of this writing.

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed a drone attack targeting an unspecified “vital target” in Eilat on June 1.[35] Israeli officials and media have not commented on the attack at the time of this writing.

The Houthis claimed six drone and missile attacks targeting US Navy ships and merchant vessels in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean on June 1.[36] The Houthis claimed that they conducted two attacks targeting the US aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower north of the Red Sea in the past 24 hours.[37] The Houthis purportedly used drones and missiles in the first attack and unspecified weapons in the second attack.[38] There is no evidence that these attacks occurred. The Houthis also claimed they “directly hit” a US destroyer in the Red Sea using drones.[39] US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that it intercepted two Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles targeting the USS Gravely destroyer in the southern Red Sea on June 1.[40] The Houthis additionally claimed two attacks targeting the Malta-flagged MAINA merchant vessel in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, one attack targeting the Marshall Islands-flagged AL ORAIQ LNG tanker in the Indian Ocean, and one attack targeting the Malta-flagged ABLIANI crude oil tanker in the Red Sea.[41] CENTCOM reported that it intercepted one Houthi drone in the southern Red Sea on June 1 and that two other Houthi drones crashed into the Red Sea without causing damage or injuries.[42] The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations reported that a vessel observed an explosion “a significant distance from the vessel” approximately 48 nautical miles southwest of al Hudaydah, Yemen, in the southern Red Sea on June 1.[43]

 

Iran Update, June 1, 2024

Click here to read the full report with maps

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: The IDF Air Force has killed three Hamas officials in the central Gaza Strip over the past week. Israeli forces continued clearing operations in Rafah.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in five locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Yemen: The Houthis launched one drone from Houthi-controlled Yemen into the Red Sea.

 

 

Click here to read the full report with maps

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

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

US President Joe Biden urged Hamas to agree to the latest Israeli ceasefire and hostage-release proposal on May 31.[1] Ceasefire talks have been largely stalled since Egypt unilaterally altered an Israeli proposal without notifying international mediators and then sent the altered text to Hamas in early May 2024. Israel submitted the most recent proposal to international mediators on May 27.[2] Biden said that Qatar sent the proposal to Hamas on May 29.[3] Hamas stated on May 30 that it refused to return to indirect negotiations until there is an end to the war.[4] Biden said he has urged Israeli leaders ”to stand behind this deal despite any political pressure,” emphasizing that Israel’s pursuit of “an unidentified notion of total victory will. . . only bog down Israel in Gaza.”[5] Biden also appealed to the Israeli people, saying that Hamas “no longer is capable” of conducting another attack like the one on October 7, 2023.[6] 

Biden outlined the three phases of the Israeli proposal:[7]

  1. Phase one involves a six-week ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip. Hamas would release an unspecified number of hostages,
    including Americans, women, and elderly and sick individuals, in exchange for “hundreds” of Palestinian prisoners in this phase. Displaced Palestinian civilians would return to their homes, including those in the northern Gaza Strip. Humanitarian aid would “surge with 600 trucks [entering the Gaza Strip] per day,” which is a notable increase from the 500 trucks in an earlier Israeli proposal.[8] Negotiations for a permanent ceasefire would continue during this phase.
  2. Phase two involves Hamas and other Palestinian militias releasing all remaining living hostages, and the IDF withdrawing from the Gaza Strip completely. Biden said that the United States, Egypt, and Qatar would ensure that negotiations continue during this phase.
  3. Phase three involves major reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip. It also involves Hamas and the other militias returning the bodies of all hostages to Israel.

Biden did not offer specific details on the number of Israeli hostages or Palestinian prisoners that would be released in this proposal, nor did he specify the length of phases two and three. The intent of each phase largely resembles the proposal that Israel made in early May 2024.[9] The Israeli proposal offers flexibility on the number of living hostages released in phase one, according to anonymous sources speaking to Axios.[10] The proposal also includes “a willingness” to discuss a "sustainable calm" in the Gaza Strip—a phrase that both Israel and Hamas included in recent ceasefire proposals.[11]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed on May 31 that its units withdrew completely from Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip.[12] This confirmation comes after local Palestinian sources reported that some IDF units were leaving Jabalia on May 30.[13] The IDF reentered Jabalia on May 11 after assessing that Hamas and other Palestinian militias were rebuilding their capabilities and networks there.[14] The IDF published a summary of its activities in Jabalia, which included destroying over 10 kilometers of tunnels, some of which were 500 meters from the Israel-Gaza Strip border.[15] Israeli forces also recovered the bodies of seven Hamas-held hostages and killed several militia commanders, including the commander of Hamas’ Beit Hanoun Battalion.[16] CTP-ISW previously observed Hamas has organized its military wing like a conventional military and has developed a deep bench of experienced military commanders to run it.

The IDF withdrawal from Jabalia follows some of the most intense fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters during the war. The IDF stated that Hamas turned civilian infrastructure in Jabalia into a “fortified combat complex.”[17] This description is consistent with previous reports that Palestinian fighters have established “fighting compounds” that enable them to rapidly traverse through buildings rather than exposing themselves in the streets to Israeli forces.[18] Israeli Army Radio reported that 341 "operational incidents" occurred in the first week of fighting in Jabalia. These incidents involved Palestinian fighters firing upon Israeli forces or attacking them with explosives.[19] This count of 341 is significantly higher than the roughly 100 engagements that occurred between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters during the first week of Israeli operations in Khan Younis in December 2023.[20] Palestinian militias sustained an unusually high rate of attacks targeting Israeli forces throughout IDF clearing operations in Jabalia.[21] IDF officers described the fighting there as some of the most intense of the war.[22] These points taken together reflect the degree to which Hamas and other Palestinian militias remain combat effective in and around Jabalia. Hamas and the other militias will almost certainly resume their efforts to reconstitute there as the IDF units have left.

Candidates have continued registering for the upcoming Iranian presidential election.[23] Among the candidates who registered on May 31 are two prominent moderate politicians: Ali Larijani and Abdol Nasser Hemmati. Presidential candidates have until June 3 to register, after which the Guardian Council will vet and approve candidates. The Guardian Council has historically disqualified moderate and reformist figures during this period to advantage hardliners in the race.

The following individuals registered on May 31:

  • Ali Larijani. Larijani is a prominent moderate politician who served as the Iranian parliament speaker from 2008 to 2020.[24] Larijani also served as both the secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council and lead nuclear negotiator from 2005 to 2007.[25] Larijani previously ran for president in 2005 and 2021. The Guardian Council allowed him to run in 2005 but barred him in 2021 on unclear grounds.[26] Ali is part of the influential and well-connected Larijani family in Iran. Ali’s brother, Sadegh Amoli Larijani, is the current head of the Expediency Discernment Council, which is an advisory board to the supreme leader. Sadegh Amoli Larijani also served as the judiciary chief from 2009 to 2019.
  • Abdol Nasser Hemmati. Hemmati is a moderate politician who served as the governor of the US-sanctioned Central Bank of Iran from 2018 to 2021 under then-President Hassan Rouhani.[27] Former President Hassan Rouhani appointed Hemmati to the Central Bank Governor position. Hemmati ran for president in 2021.[28] He received the third most votes after Ebrahim Raisi and former IRGC Commander Mohsen Rezaei.[29]   
  • Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighosh. Bighosh is a hardline politician who represented Markazi Province in Parliament from 2009 to 2012 and additionally from 2020 to 2024.[30] Bighosh was part of the Parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee while in Parliament. Bighoush also served as the governor of North Khorasan Province from 2012 to 2013.[31]
  • Mohammad Khoshchehreh. Khoshchehreh is a hardline politician who represented Tehran Province in Parliament from 2004 to 2008.[32] Khoshchehreh previously supported President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but became an outspoken critic of Ahmadinejad three months into his presidency.[33] Khoshchehreh is a well-known economist and urban planner.

Larijani could be a particularly strong contender for the presidency given his deep connections in the Iranian political and security establishment. Those connections could prove useful, given that the Iranian regime manipulates elections to install favored candidates. Larijani has framed his candidacy in recent days around bolstering Iranian defense and national security, improving the economy, and managing US sanctions.[34] An anonymous Iranian official told Reuters that the Guardian Council would allow Larijani to run despite disqualifying him during the 2021 race.[35] Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Guardian Council could permit Larijani to run to diversify the field of candidates beyond just hardliners and encourage voter participation, which has hit record lows repeatedly in recent years.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ceasefire Negotiations: US President Joe Biden urged Hamas to accept the latest Israeli ceasefire and hostage-release proposal. The proposal includes three phases to end the war, release Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and begin reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.
  • Gaza Strip: The IDF withdrew completely from Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip after weeks of intense fighting there. Hamas and the other Palestinian militias will almost certainly begin reconstituting their forces there as Israeli forces leave.
  • Iran: Candidates have continued registering for the Iranian presidential election in June 2024. Among the candidates are prominent moderate politicians, some of whom could be particularly strong contenders for the presidency.
  • Iraq: The UN Security Council voted unanimously to end the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq at the end of 2025.
  • Yemen: The United States and the United Kingdom struck 21 Houthi targets in Yemen and over the Red Sea.

 


Iran Update, May 30, 2024

Click here to read the full report.

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

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Israel withdrew some IDF units from Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 30, according to local Palestinian sources.[1] The local authorities from Hamas’ Emergency Committee told displaced Palestinian civilians to avoid returning to Jabalia at this time because “there are still dangerous remnants.”[2] A local Palestinian journalist said that Israeli forces remain in the northern and eastern parts of Jabalia.[3] The IDF confirmed on May 30 that at least one of the three brigades that were in Jabalia is still there.[4] Palestinian militias claimed several attacks targeting Israeli forces in and around Jabalia, further indicating that Israeli forces are still in the area.[5]

The partial Israeli withdrawal from Jabalia follows some of the most intense fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters during the war. The IDF reentered Jabalia on May 11 after assessing that Hamas and other Palestinian militias were rebuilding their capabilities and networks there.[6] Hamas was able to do so despite the IDF killing Hamas’ local battalion commander there in October 2023.[7] The IDF assessed two weeks into the Jabalia operation that three Hamas battalions are active there rather than just one.[8] Palestinian militias conducted an unusually high rate of attacks targeting Israeli forces in Jabalia during this period. IDF officers described the fighting there as some of the most intense of the war.[9]

Hamas and other Palestinian militias will almost certainly resume their efforts to reconstitute in Jabalia as Israeli forces withdraw. There are remaining pockets around Jabalia that Israeli forces have not cleared.[10] Hamas and other militias have probably moved into some of these areas to preserve their forces.[11] Hamas will capitalize on these remaining forces to rebuild their capabilities and networks in and around Jabalia as Israeli forces leave. US and Israeli officials have expressed concerns that Hamas will survive in the Gaza Strip without a post-war plan that involves an alternative to Hamas rule.[12]

The registration period for the Iranian presidential election began on May 30.[13] Only one prominent individual, hardliner Saeed Jalili, has registered thus far. Presidential candidates have until June 3 to register, after which the Guardian Council will vet and approve candidates. The Guardian Council has historically disqualified moderate and reformist figures during this period in order to advantage hardliners in the race.

The following individuals have registered thus far:

  • Saeed Jalili. Jalili is a prominent hardliner, who serves as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).[14] Jalili previously served as the SNSC secretary from 2007 to 2013.[15] Jalili is also a member of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council (EDC) and Strategic Foreign Relations Council, both of which are advisory boards to the supreme leader.[16] An Iranian opposition outlet reported on May 21 that elements in the regime tried to convince Khamenei to prevent Jalili from competing in the election.[17] These elements include some moderates, such as Ali Larijani, as well as several hardliners, such as EDC Chairman Sadegh Amoli Larijani, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and former SNSC Secretary Ali Shamkhani.[18]
  • Mohammad Reza Sabaghian Bafghi. Bafghi represents Bafgh, Yazd Province, in Parliament and is a member of the Parliamentary Internal Affairs Committee.[19] Bafghi previously headed the passive defense office in Yazd Province.[20]
  • Mostafa Kavakebian. Kavakebian is a reformist candidate, who previously served as a representative for Tehran in Parliament.[21] The Guardian Council disqualified Kavakebian in the 2005, 2013, 2017, and 2021 presidential elections.[22] Kavakebian stated on May 30 that he would facilitate the removal of all international sanctions on Iran and establish relations with all countries except Israel if he becomes president.[23]
  • Abbas Moghtadaei. Moghtadaei is a hardline candidate, who represents Esfahan City, Esfahan Province, in Parliament and previously served as the deputy chairman of the Parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee.[24] Moghtadaei is a faculty member at the Islamic Azad University.[25]
  • Ghodrat Ali Hashemtian. Hashemtian registered for the 2017 presidential election but later withdrew his candidacy.[26]

Syrian President Bashar al Assad traveled to Tehran to meet with senior Iranian officials on May 30. The visit may be part of recent efforts by Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” to coordinate their actions vis-a-vis the Israel-Hamas war.[27] Assad met with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Interim President Mohammad Mokhber, Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Bagheri Kani, and Roads and Urban Development Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash, among other Iranian officials.[28] The presence of Bazrpash, who also heads the Iran-Syria Joint Economic Commission, indicates that Assad discussed Iranian investment and reconstruction projects in Syria in at least some of the meetings.[29]

Assad’s visit comes shortly after the Axis of Resistance held a meeting of its Joint Operations Room in Tehran on May 23.[30] The operations room is meant to align and coordinate Iranian and Iranian-backed campaigns against the United States and Israel. The May 23 meeting included senior officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Lebanese Hezbollah, the Houthis, and several Iraqi and Palestinian militias, such as Hamas.

The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed that its fighters entered Bat Hefer in Israel to kill an IDF officer there on May 29.[31] The militia said that its fighters entered the officer’s home and seized weapons but left once they realized that children were present.[32] CTP-ISW cannot verify this claim, as Israel has not confirmed that there was any militia activity around Bat Hefer at the time of this writing. The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades also threatened to attack Israeli civilians in the same way that Hamas did in October 2023.

The claimed infiltration into Bat Hefer comes amid an uptick in activity around Bat Hefer, which is near the Israel-West Bank border and immediately adjacent to Tulkarm, in recent days. Hamas fighters fired small arms from the West Bank targeting Bat Hefer on May 27 and May 29.[33] Around 30 unarmed Palestinians separately tried to cross the border from the West Bank into Bat Hefer on May 27. The IDF said on May 30 that it is increasing operations in the area in response to attacks targeting Bat Hefer.[34]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: Israel reportedly withdrew some IDF units from Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip. Hamas will almost certainly try to exploit these withdrawals to continue reconstituting its forces.
  • Iran: The registration period for the Iranian presidential election began. One only prominent individual, hardliner Saeed Jalili, has registered thus far. The registration period lasts until June 3.
  • Syria: Syrian President Bashar al Assad traveled to Tehran to meet with senior Iranian officials. The visit may be part of recent efforts by Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” to coordinate their actions vis-a-vis the Israel Hamas war.
  • West Bank: The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed that its fighters entered Bat Hefer in Israel to kill an IDF officer there. The claim comes amid an uptick in activity around the Israel-West Bank border, specifically around Bat Hefer.

Iran Update, May 29, 2024

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Ashka Jhaveri, Kelly Campa, Annika Ganzeveld, Alexandra Braverman, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on May 29 that it established “operational control” of the Philadelphi Corridor on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.[1] Israeli officials have described Israeli operations along the corridor as meant to disrupt some of Hamas’ primary smuggling routes into the Gaza Strip.[2] Israeli forces have uncovered around 20 tunnels that connect Egypt to the Gaza Strip in recent days.[3] Israel was aware of some of these tunnels beforehand but not all of them.[4] The IDF said that it has communicated with Egypt regarding the tunnels, however, an unspecified Egyptian official speaking to Egyptian media disputed this assertion.[5]

Israeli forces are currently operating along most of the corridor, excluding a small area near the Gazan coast. The IDF said that it controls the corridor with “surveillance and fire power.”[6] The IDF previously controlled about 70 percent of the corridor on May 22—two weeks after first advancing into Rafah on May 7.[7] The IDF said that Hamas has used the corridor to launch rocket attacks in recent weeks because Hamas assumed that the IDF would avoid the corridor so as to not inadvertently hit Egyptian territory.[8]

Israeli officials reportedly expect that controlling the Philadelphi corridor will prevent Hamas from importing weapons into the Gaza Strip.[9] Hamas will continue its efforts to reconstitute throughout the Gaza Strip, despite these efforts.

Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said on May 29 that he expects fighting in the Gaza Strip to last for the remainder of 2024.[10] Hanegbi said that Israel needs that time to destroy the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). PIJ is one of several Iranian-backed Palestinian militias that has fought alongside Hamas in the war.[11]

Iraqi Interior Minister Abdul Amir al Shammari traveled to Tehran on May 29 to discuss internal security cooperation with senior Iranian military officials. Shammari met with Iranian Armed Forces General Staff Chief Major General Mohammad Bagheri, Law Enforcement Commander Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Radan, and Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi.[12] These Iranian officials are responsible for overseeing significant portions of the Iranian internal security apparatus and domestic repression. They are all involved to varying degrees, for instance, in controlling the Law Enforcement Command (LEC), which is the premier Iranian internal security service and heavily involved in suppressing political dissent. Radan emphasized in his meeting with Shammari that Iran is ready to share law enforcement experiences with Iraq.[13] Radan also called for greater cooperation between the LEC anti-riot and cyber units and the Iraqi federal police, which Shammari oversees.[14]

Shammari will also meet with Supreme National Defense University President Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam during his visit to discuss the SNDU training Iraqi officers.[15] Moghaddam—like Radan—has a long history of leading crackdowns in Iran, as Moghaddam served as Iranian law enforcement commander from 2005 to 2015.[16] He was instrumental in the crackdown on the Green Movement in 2009. The United States sanctioned Moghaddam in 2011 for human rights abuses.[17] Shammari previously met Moghaddam when the latter visited Baghdad in December 2023.[18] CTP-ISW assessed at the time that Moghaddam may have discussed his experience suppressing civil unrest during his meetings with Iraqi officials.[19]

Mohammad Bagheri separately called on the Iraqi federal government to fully implement the March 2023 security agreement between Iran and Iraq during his meeting with Shammari.[20] This agreement requires Iraqi authorities to disarm and relocate Kurdish opposition groups away from the border with Iran.[21] 

Iran is broadcasting that it has helped the Houthis develop anti-ship ballistic missile capabilities. IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency published English-language and Persian-language articles on May 29 discussing how Iran has provided technical knowledge and materials to the Houthis to help them build anti-ship ballistic missiles.[22] Tasnim News Agency specifically touted that the Houthis have based their Muhit missiles on the Iranian Ghadr anti-ship ballistic missile.[23] Tasnim News Agency added that the Houthis present serious challenges to the United States and Israel because of these capabilities. The publication of these articles is unusual in that Iran rarely acknowledges its provision of material support to the Houthis. The IRGC almost certainly published these articles in order to broadcast the Iranian role in empowering the Houthis and the so-called “Axis of Resistance” more broadly.

Key Takeaways:

  • Southern Gaza Strip: The IDF announced that it established “operational control” of the Philadelphi Corridor on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
  • Iraq: Iraqi Interior Minister Abdul Amir al Shammari traveled to Tehran to discuss internal security cooperation with senior Iranian military officials.
  • Yemen: Iran is broadcasting that it has helped the Houthis develop anti-ship ballistic missile capabilities.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces have expanded their clearing operations in Jabalia in recent days.
  • Humanitarian Aid: The United States suspended operations at its temporary pier in the Gaza Strip due to damage sustained at sea.
  • West Bank: Palestinian fighters fired small arms at two towns in Israel from the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, conducted at least eight attacks into northern Israel.
  • Iran: Policy adviser to the Iranian supreme leader, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, appears to be re-entering public Iranian discourse ahead of the Iranian presidential election in June 2024.

Iran Update, May 28, 2024

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

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Iran has increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to near weapons-grade levels amid recent statements from Iranian officials about Iran’s ability to procure a nuclear weapon.[1] The Associated Press reported on May 27 that Iran possesses 142.1 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 60 percent, citing a confidential International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report.[2] This amount marks a 20.6 kilogram (16.95 percent) increase in Iran’s stockpile of 60 percent enriched uranium since the IAEA published its last quarterly report in February 2024.[3] Weapons-grade uranium is uranium that is enriched to 90 percent purity.[4] The IAEA report follows repeated statements in April and May from senior Iranian officials, including a top foreign policy adviser to the Supreme Leader, that have begun to normalize discussions about Iran’s ability to procure a nuclear weapon.[5] IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi recently expressed concern about Iran’s nuclear program after visiting Tehran from May 6 to May 8, stating that Iranian cooperation with the agency is “not at the level it should be.”[6]

The IAEA report added that Iran’s overall stockpile of enriched uranium is currently 6,201.3 kilograms, a 675.8 kilogram (12.23 percent) increase since February 2024 when Iran’s total stockpile was 5525.5 kilograms.[7] A US expert noted on May 28 that, based on the confidential IAEA report, Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium (WGU) for almost eight nuclear weapons in the first month after breakout.[8]

Iranian Members of Parliament re-elected hardline politician Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf as parliament speaker on May 28.[9] Ghalibaf has served as parliament speaker since May 2020.[10] Ghalibaf received 198 out of 287 votes, while his competitors, former Parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Mojtaba Zonnour and former Foreign Affairs Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, won 60 and five votes, respectively.[11] Ghalibaf will serve a one-year term.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 162nd Division expanded clearing operations into western Rafah on May 28. The IDF Nahal and 401st Brigades operated overnight on the Philadelphi Corridor to target Palestinian fighters and militia sites based on “intelligence” of Palestinian fighters in the area.[12] Palestinian sources reported that Israeli armor advanced to Tel Zaroub and the southern Tel al Sultan neighborhoods, which are along the Philadelphi Corridor.[13] The IDF moved into western Rafah with its left flank against the Egypt-Gaza Strip border. Eyewitnesses speaking to Reuters indicated that the IDF may have used unmanned ground vehicles in the advance into western Rafah.[14] Local sources reported intense gunfire in western Rafah as Israeli forces advanced.[15] Palestinian civilians sheltering in western Rafah evacuated north into the al Mawasi humanitarian zone, according to video and journalist accounts. [16]

Palestinian militias continued to target Israeli forces operating in southern and central Rafah on May 28. Hamas fighters detonated a building that it rigged with explosives while Israeli forces were inside the building in Shuwat refugee camp in central Rafah.[17] Several Palestinian militias targeted Israeli forces with mortar and rocket fire along the Philadelphi Corridor.[18]

The IDF has uncovered over ten smuggling tunnels that cross into Egypt from the Gaza Strip, according to an Israeli Army Radio correspondent.[19] Israeli forces are in the process of destroying the tunnel routes.[20] The IDF 162nd Division uncovered additional tunnels in its overnight operations along the Philadelphi Corridor on May 28.[21] The IDF Nahal Brigade also seized hundreds of weapons, including long-range rockets, from Hamas warehouses in Rafah in the past week.[22]

Nationalist Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr demanded that the Iraqi government expel US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski and close the US Embassy in Baghdad in retaliation for US support for Israel.[23] Sadr argued on May 28 that removing the United States from Iraq through diplomatic means would prevent any use of military force by the United States. He contrasted diplomatic efforts with the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia’s attack campaign to expel the United States, which he said triggered a US response.

The Houthis damaged a Marshall Islands-flagged merchant vessel in the Red Sea on May 28.[24] United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) reported that a vessel was targeted with missiles and sustained damage approximately 31 nautical miles southwest of Hudaydah.[25] A British maritime security company separately stated that the vessel sustained damage to its cargo hold and took on water approximately 54 nautical miles southwest of Hudaydah, Yemen. The damaged vessel sailed to a nearby port to assess the damage. The Houthis have not claimed the attack on the vessel at the time of this writing.

Israel submitted a new ceasefire and hostage-release proposal to international mediators on May 27.[26] Hamas negotiators were expected to receive the proposal from Qatar on May 28 but have not acknowledged the proposal at the time of writing.[27] The Israeli proposal offers ”flexibility” on the number of living hostages released in the deal’s first phase, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations speaking to Axios.[28] The proposal also includes “a willingness” to discuss a "sustainable calm" in the Gaza Strip, a phrase that both Israel and Hamas included in the last round of ceasefire proposals.[29]

Iran's continued support for Russia's defense industrial base (DIB) and provision of lethal aid to Russia is bolstering Russia's technological output and military capabilities on the battlefield in Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a report on May 28 detailing Russian efforts to produce Shahed-136/131 drones at the Alabuga Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the Republic of Tatarstan using Iranian-provided technologies and a labor force recruited largely from eastern Africa.[30] WSJ cited the international hacking group Prana Network, which reportedly hacked an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) email server in February 2024 and revealed that Russia intends to produce 6,000 Shahed drones at the Alabuga SEZ in 2024 alone. The Institute for Science and International Security (IISS) assessed that the Alabuga SEZ has already produced 4,500 Shaheds as of the end of April 2024, ahead of schedule, and could produce all 6,000 by mid-August 2024.[31] WSJ found that Russia is currently producing more advanced models of Iranian Shaheds domestically and intensively using them to strike Ukraine.[32] WSJ also noted that Russian authorities are recruiting from African countries, particularly Uganda, and especially enticing young women to participate in work-study programs at Alabuga to produce Shahed drones. Russia would not be able to operate the Alabuga SEZ without Iran's consistent support for the Russian war effort—Iranian production models for Shahed drones and Iranian drone technologies are at the center of the entire Alabuga enterprise.[33] German outlet BILD similarly reported on May 27 that Iran has also likely supplied Russia with Qaem-5 television-guided air-to-ground bombs, which Iran started producing as recently as 2019.[34] BILD noted that an Iranian-provided Mohajer-6 drone carrying the Qaem-5 bombs crashed in Kursk Oblast for an unknown reason but that Russian forces may have intended to strike Sumy Oblast. ISW has not yet observed confirmation that Russia has used these projectiles in Ukraine, but their use would be consistent with the pattern of continued and intensified Iranian military support to Russia.[35]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran’s Nuclear Program: Iran has increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to near weapons-grade levels amid recent statements from Iranian officials about Iran’s ability to procure a nuclear weapon.
  • Iranian Parliament: Iranian parliamentarians re-elected hardline politician Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf as parliament speaker, with Ghalibaf receiving 198 of 287 votes.
  • Rafah: The IDF expanded operations into Western Rafah. IDF units moved deeper into Rafah along the Egypt-Gaza Strip border overnight on May 27 and 28. The IDF has so far identified ten smuggling tunnels that cross into Egypt from the Gaza Strip.
  • Iraq: Nationalist Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr demanded that the Iraqi government expel US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski and close the US Embassy in Baghdad in retaliation for US support for Israel.
  • Yemen: The Houthis damaged a Marshall Islands-flagged merchant vessel in the Red Sea.
  • Ceasefire Negotiations: Israel submitted a new ceasefire proposal that offered “flexibility” on the number of living hostages to be released in the deal’s first phase. Hamas has not acknowledged the proposal as of the data cutoff.
  • Russo-Iranian Cooperation: Iran's continued support for Russia's defense industrial base (DIB) and provision of lethal aid to Russia is bolstering Russia's technological output and military capabilities on the battlefield in Ukraine.

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 deployed an additional brigade to Rafah on May 28.[36] The IDF 828th Brigade will operate under the command of the 162nd Division.[37] There are currently five IDF brigades operating in Rafah.[38]

The IDF 98th Division continued clearing operations in Jabalia on May 28. The IDF 7th Armored, 460th Armored, and 35th Paratroopers Brigades destroyed dozens of militia sites in the Jabalia area, including tunnel shafts, reconnaissance sites, and a weapons depot.[39] Israeli forces also engaged Palestinian fighters, including a Palestinian mortar cell.[40] Several Palestinian militias targeted Israeli forces with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and thermobaric rockets in and around Jabalia camp.[41]

The IDF 99th Division is “expanding” operations in the central Gaza Strip.[42] The IDF did not specify how the two brigades operating under the 99th Division would alter their areas of responsibility under the expansion. The IDF 2nd Reservist Infantry Brigade and 679th Reservist Armored Brigade deployed to the Netzarim corridor on April 25 to hold the corridor, provide protection for the US-built temporary pier, and conduct short-term raids in the northern Gaza Strip.[43] The IDF reported on May 28 that the 2nd Reservist Infantry Brigade has operated in Juhor ad Dik on the eastern end of the Netzarim corridor over the past week.[44] The 679th Reservist Armored Brigade raided a weapons warehouse and directed strikes on Palestinian fighters operating in the central Gaza Strip.[45]

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi appointed an "advisory committee" on May 28 to examine the conditions of Palestinian detainees and the IDF’s detention facilities’ compliance with international law.[46] The IDF said that an “unprecedented number of detainees and the shortage of” detention sites have led to Palestinian detainees being held in IDF custody for longer periods.[47] A CNN report from mid-May exposed alleged overcrowding and abuse in the IDF Sde Teiman detention facility.[48] The Sde Teiman facility houses Palestinians detained in the Gaza Strip for up to 45 days under Israeli law.[49]

Palestinian militias have conducted at least two indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cut-off on May 27.[50] The Palestinian Mujahideen Movement, which is a Palestinian faction aligned with Hamas that has expressed close ties with Iran, fired rockets at an IDF site near the Kerem Shalom border crossing.[51] The IDF separately said that Palestinian fighters launched one rocket from the Gaza Strip toward Nahal Oz.[52] Palestinian militias did not claim responsibility for the attack which struck an open area.[53]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in two locations across the West Bank since CTP-ISW's last data cut-off on May 27.[54]

Israeli forces detained eight wanted persons in the West Bank during overnight raids on May 28.[55] Israeli forces also seized explosive components in Burka.

Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades released separate statements on May 27 calling on Palestinian civilians and fighters to take up arms and attack Israeli forces and settlers.[56] Hamas said that Palestinians should seek out Israeli targets to attack instead of waiting for Israeli forces to enter Palestinian towns.[57] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades similarly called on members of the militia in the West Bank to attack Israeli forces and settlers “wherever they are found.”[58] These calls to action follow eight Palestinian militia attacks in the West Bank on May 27 that exclusively targeted Israeli checkpoints, settlements, and towns.[59] Palestinian militias have previously called for Palestinian civilians in the West Bank to take up arms against Israelis in the West Bank.[60]

Approximately 30 unarmed Palestinians attempted to cross the Israel-West Bank border wall from an area near Tulkarm into the Bat Hefer settlement on May 27.[61] Footage shows Palestinians climbing over a border wall near Shuweika, which is 1.5km north of Tulkarm. Israeli security forces arrested 19 Palestinians and two Israeli Arabs who security forces suspected of helping the group cross into Israel.[62]

An Israeli Army Radio correspondent called the incident “serious” and said that Tulkarm is the most dangerous area in the West Bank.[63] The correspondent suggested that Israeli forces have deprioritized the task of defending the border wall due to Israeli deployments in the Gaza Strip and the Israel-Lebanon border. The correspondent added that the IDF also believes that it requires fewer Israeli forces to guard the border area because of an expansion of the border wall. Israeli media reported that “special units” have been created to defend the wall in recent years.[64]

Hamas fighters fired small arms in the general direction of Bat Hefer, an Israeli town west of Tulkarm outside of the West Bank on May 27.[65] A video published by Hamas claims to show two Hamas fighters firing two M4/M16-pattern rifles in the general direction of Bat Hefer, but the town is not visible in the footage. The two fighters are seen on the West Bank side of the Israel-West Bank security wall. Hamas said that the attack was in response to Israeli "massacres” in Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

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 six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 27.[66] Hezbollah launched an unspecified number of drones targeting the IDF’s 411th Artillery Battalion east of Nahariya, Western Galilee, on May 27.[67] The IDF reported shortly after that it intercepted one drone, adding that another fell over Western Galilee.[68]

The Israeli government approved a plan to allocate NIS 6.5 billion (1.7 billion USD) to rehabilitate northern Israel and assist evacuees on May 27.[69] The relief plan applies to towns within nine kilometers of the border that have been evacuated due to Hezbollah attacks.[70] The plan allocates NIS 3.5 billion (951 million USD) to immediate relief needs, including providing aid to evacuated communities, supporting businesses and industry, and providing employment security.[71] The plan also devotes NIS 3 billion (815 million USD) to multi-year objectives including strengthening the northern region’s businesses, universities, and tourism industry.[72]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rear Adm. Ali Akbar Ahmadian held a phone call with Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Shoigu on May 28.[73] Ahmadian congratulated Shoigu on his recent appointment as Secretary of the Russian Security Council. Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced Shoigu with Andrei Belousov as Russian Defense Minister on May 12, moving Shoigu to the position of Security Council Secretary to replace Nikolai Patrushev.[74] Shoigu expressed condolences for the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and emphasized that Iran and Russia will continue to engage in “high-level cooperation” despite Raisi’s death.[75]

Iranian acting Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Bagheri Kani and interim President Mohammad Mokhber met with Sudanese Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Awad Ali on May 25 and 26, respectively.[76] Awad Ali is affiliated with the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).[77] Mokhber emphasized Iran will “spare no effort” to help Sudan achieve “independence, progress, and peace.”[78] Bagheri Kani and Awad Ali agreed to expedite the reopening of the Iranian and Sudanese embassies in Khartoum and Tehran.[79] Iran and Sudan reestablished diplomatic ties in October 2023.[80]

The meetings between Awad Ali and Iranian officials come amid growing military cooperation between the two countries. Iran has supplied the SAF with drones, such as the Mohajer-6, to use against the Emirati-supported Rapid Support Forces (RSF).[81] The Mohajer-6 has a range of 2,000 km and uses Almas guided anti-tank missiles and Ghaem guided glide bombs.[82] Iran has also reportedly supplied the SAF with Ababil drones which have a range of 120-480 km and use Almas anti-tank guided missiles and Ghaem guided glided bombs.[83] An unspecified senior Sudanese army source told Reuters in April 2024 that Iranian drones have helped the SAF “turn the tide of the war” by halting the progress of the RSF and enabling the SAF to regain territorial control in areas surrounding the capital.[84]

Russia may separately be increasing its support of the SAF in order to acquire a Red Sea naval base.[85] Deputy Commander-in-Chief Yasser al Atta stated on May 25 that an SAF delegation will travel to Russia to conclude an agreement exchanging "vital weapons and munitions" for Russian logistics.[86] Atta described the planned Russian hub as "not exactly a military base."[87]

Iranian acting Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Bagheri Kani met with IRGC Quds Force Commander Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Tehran on May 28.[88] Ghaani praised former Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian’s frequent diplomatic engagements with Axis of Resistance leaders.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) intercepted a Houthi one-way attack drone over the Red Sea on May 27.[89] CENTCOM assessed that the drone presented a threat to merchant vessels in the area.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—conducted two separate drone attacks targeting Eilat on May 27. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed that it fired one drone targeting an unspecified “vital target” in Eilat.[90] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed that it fired three drones in a second attack on Eilat targeting multiple “military targets.”[91] The IDF reported on May 27 that Israeli fighter jets and air defenseintercepted two drones before they crossed into Israeli territory.[92]


 

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Andie Parry, Annika Ganzeveld, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Kathryn Tyson, Kelly Campa, and Brian Carter

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Iranian journalists reported that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed his policy adviser, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, in March 2024 to lead nuclear negotiations with the United States.[1] The publication of this information could be meant to boost the political standing of Shamkhani ahead of the Iranian presidential election in June 2024. Shamkhani assumed responsibility of negotiations from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which had led negotiations under the Ebrahim Raisi administration. Shamkhani is a trusted adviser to Khamenei and a seasoned diplomat, who served as secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council from 2013 to 2023.[2] Shamkhani in this capacity played a prominent role in negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and Iran-Saudi Arabia rapprochement.[3] Khamenei has previously delegated responsibility for international talks to his inner circle, making it unsurprising that Khamenei has involved Shamkhani in nuclear negotiations again. The publication of this news could be meant to position Shamkhani to run for president or receive a position in the next presidential administration by framing him as a capable and trusted diplomat.

Iranian politicians are continuing to maneuver and prepare for the Iranian presidential election in June 2024. Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi announced the official start of Iranian presidential campaign season on May 26.[4] Registration for presidential candidates will open on May 30 and close on June 3. Iran will hold elections on June 28.[5]

Prominent hardliner Saeed Jalili has since announced his candidacy.[6] The Guardian Council—a regime body responsible for reviewing presidential candidates before candidates are permitted to run—previously approved Jalili’s candidacy in the 2013 and 2021 presidential elections, which suggests that the council will likely approve his candidacy in this election. Jalili withdrew from the 2021 race to back Ebrahim Raisi.[7] Jalili’s candidacy is particularly noteworthy following reports from an anti-regime outlet that some Iranian officials warned Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei against allowing Jalili to run. These officials included moderates like Ali Larijani and several hardliners such as Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Sadegh Amoli Larijani, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and adviser to the supreme leader Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani.[8]

Jalili currently serves as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative to the SNSC and previously served as the SNSC secretary from 2007 to 2013.[9] Jalili also holds roles within Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council (EDC)—a board that advises Khamenei on policy decisions and mediates conflicts between Parliament and the Guardian Council—and a foreign relations council that advises Khamenei.[10] Jalili’s prominence within the regime suggests that he continues to hold Khamenei's trust. Jalili has criticized the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for abandoning “a hundred (of Iran’s) inalienable rights.” He has made similar remarks about subsequent nuclear negotiations, making such negotiations less likely under a potential Jalili administration.[11]

Other rumored presidential candidates include:

  • Mehrdad Barzpash:[12] Roads and Urban Development Minister in the hardline Raisi administration. Barzpash previously served as a parliamentarian from 2012 to 2016 and was the CEO of well-known Iranian automakers SAIPA and Pars Khodrow.[13]
  • Parviz Fattah:[14] Head of the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), a parastatal organization directly controlled by the supreme leader. Fattah’s role within the EIKO underscores his loyalty to Khamenei. Loyalty to Khamenei is a critical metric of whether a presidential candidate is permitted to run.[15]
  • Ali Larijani:[16] Prominent moderate politician and current EDC member. Larijani formerly served as parliament speaker from 2008 to 2020 and was SNSC Secretary from 2005 to 2007.[17] Khamenei has increasingly marginalized Larijani since 2019 and the Guardian Council notably denied his presidential candidacy in 2021.[18] A freelance journalist claimed on May 26 that Khamenei greenlit Larijani’s candidacy in the upcoming elections and that Larijani‘s team is “assessing the situation.”[19]Approval of Larijani would be noteworthy and may indicate that Khamenei is attempting to make Iranian presidential elections appear politically diverse.
  • Mohammad Mokhber:[20] Interim President and hardline member of Raisi’s cabinet. Mokhber formerly served as the EIKO and Mostazafan Foundation head, a separate regime business conglomerate that contributes to regime self-enrichment.
  • Ali Reza Zakani:[21] Tehran Mayor and hardline politician. Zakani previously ran in the 2021 presidential elections before withdrawing to support Ebrahim Raisi.[22] The Guardian Council denied Zakani’s candidacy in the 2013 and 2017 election cycles.[23]

Several Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, including Kataib Hezbollah, are reportedly considering resuming attacks targeting US forces.[24] A Lebanese outlet close to Hezbollah reported on May 25 that unspecified sources close to the Iraqi militias said that the militias have “begun reconsidering their agreement with the [Iraqi federal] government to halt their military operations against US military bases.”[25] The sources said that the militias were considering resuming attacks because the militias believe that the Iraqi government is “procrastinating” a decision to remove US forces from Iraq. Senior Iraqi militia leaders met with IRGC Quds Force Commander Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani, IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, and other Axis of Resistance (AoR) leaders in Tehran on May 23 on the sidelines of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s funeral.[26] Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Harkat Hezbollah al Nujaba’s spokesperson said that the AoR factions at the meeting discussed “collective resolve” to maintain pressure on Israel.[27] The spokesperson highlighted that the meeting on May 23 was part of the Joint Operations Room that Iran founded in summer 2023 to counter the United States and Israel.[28] Iran and its partners have used the Joint Operations to coordinate operations during the current war. It is notable that Iranian-backed groups discussed the war and their military operations two days before the Lebanese report that some Iraqi groups are considering resuming attacks against US forces.

IRGC Quds Force Commander Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani ordered Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, including Kataib Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, to suspend attacks targeting US forces in January 2024 after a one-way drone attack killed three US personnel in northeastern Jordan.[29] Kataib Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba “fiercely resisted” Ghaani’s order to stop attacks but ultimately complied.[30]

The Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have not altered their long-standing strategic objective to remove US forces from Iraq and these militias retain the capabilities to resume attacks at any time and for any reason. Iranian-backed Iraqi militias could use Israeli operations in Rafah as an excuse to resume their attack campaign targeting US forces. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—established a joint operations room and claimed its first attack targeting US forces during the Israel-Hamas war on October 18, 2023, one day after the explosion at the al Ahli hospital in the Gaza Strip.[31] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq could similarly use Israeli operations in Rafah to justify resuming attacks targeting US forces.

Iraqi officials are continuing to promote greater cooperation with Russia. Shia cleric Ammar al Hakim met with Russian Ambassador to Iraq Elbrus Kutrashev on May 26 to discuss Iraqi political affairs and stability.[32] Hakim previously called for greater foreign investment in Iraq during a meeting with Kutrashev in late January 2024.[33] The Iraqi federal government granted Russian state-owned oil company Gazprom a contract to develop the Nasiriyah oil field in Dhi Qar Province in early February 2024, days after a member of Hakim’s political party became the governor of Dhi Qar Province.[34]

Iraqi Federal Supreme Court President Jassim Mohammad Abboud and Russian Constitutional Court President Valery Zorkin separately signed a memorandum of understanding in St. Petersburg, Russia, on May 27 to increase judicial cooperation.[35] Iraqi Federal Integrity Commission Chairman Haider Hanoun, who is affiliated with the Badr Organization, and Russian Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov previously signed a memorandum of understanding for anti-corruption coordination and training in February 2024.[36] The Iraqi Federal Integrity Commission is the judicial body responsible for investigating corruption cases and drafting appropriate legislation. CTP-ISW assessed that the Federal Integrity Commission weaponized corruption legislation under Hanoun’s chairmanship to bar candidates from running for office in the Iraqi provincial elections in December 2023.[37]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) struck and killed two Hamas West Bank senior officials in Tel al Sultan, Rafah on May 26.[38] The strike targeted the Hamas West Bank chief of staff Yassin Rabia and his deputy Khaled Najjar.[39] The IDF said that the Hamas headquarters was “responsible for directing, financing and supporting” militia attacks in the West Bank.[40] Rabia managed all Hamas West Bank militias, directed attacks, and financed operations.[41] Najjar similarly directed small arms attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank.[42] Both men conducted attacks that killed Israeli soldiers in the early 2000s.[43]

The Tel al Sultan strike caused a fire that also killed 35 Palestinian civilians, according to Palestinian health and civil emergency service officials.[44] An independent IDF body is conducting a review of the strike, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the strike a “tragic mishap.”[45] The IDF acknowledged that the strike caused a fire and injured “a number of non-involved people” but noted that the attack complied with international law.[46] The IDF also said that it had called for Palestinians to evacuate the strike area and that it had not struck inside of the al Mawasi humanitarian zone.[47] The IDF Arabic spokesperson said on May 22 that the “humanitarian services zone” extended to the numbered block where the strike occurred, however.[48] Hamas claimed that the IDF had declared the strike location “a safe area.”[49]

The IDF 98th Division assesses that it is fighting three Hamas battalions in Jabalia camp, which is an indicator of Hamas reconstitution in the northern Gaza Strip.[50] IDF officials previously anticipated that Israeli forces would have to defeat a single Hamas battalion in previously uncleared areas of Jabalia camp, according to Israeli media.[51] The IDF realized as it began operating in Jabalia in mid-May that two additional Hamas battalions had reconstituted and would participate in the defense of Jabalia.[52] The IDF assessed two weeks into the current Jabalia operation that it has dismantled one of three Hamas battalions. Israeli War Cabinet members have said repeatedly that the IDF has “dismantled” all 12 Hamas Battalions in Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip.[53]

The requirement to re-“dismantle” some Hamas battalions underscores the requirement for a sustainable political and military end state in the Gaza Strip that results in the defeat of Hamas’ military and political wings. The IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said in mid-May that current Israeli re-clearing operations are a “Sisyphean task” unless the political echelon established a political end state.[54] 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.[55] Hamas infiltrated and began reconstituting itself in the northern Gaza Strip after the Israeli drawdown in the strip that began in December 2023, as CTP-ISW has previously reported.[56]

Israeli and Egyptian forces exchanged small arms fire at the Rafah border crossing on May 27.[57] A spokesperson for Egypt’s military said that a “shooting incident” killed one Egyptian soldier.[58]Unspecified Egyptian and Israeli officials have blamed the opposing side for opening firing first.[59] CTP-ISW cannot verify what prompted the clash. Senior Egyptian and Israeli officials are conducting a joint investigation into the incident.[60] Egypt–Israel relations have been strained over the last several weeks after the IDF began clearing operations in Rafah and seized the Rafah border crossing.[61]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iranian Elections: The Iranian supreme leader reportedly appointed his policy adviser, Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani, in March 2024 to leader nuclear negotiations with the United States. The publication of this information now may be meant to boost Shamkhani’s political position ahead of Iran’s presidential election.
  • Iranian Presidential Candidates: Prominent Iranian hardliner Saeed Jalili announced his candidacy for the Iranian presidential elections in June 2024. Iranian journalists reported that several other prominent political figures are planning to run.
  • Iranian-backed Militias in Iraq: Several Iranian-backed Iraqi militias are reportedly considering resuming attacks on US forces days after a meeting between Iranian-backed militia leaders from throughout the region and the IRGC in Tehran.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF is fighting three Hamas battalions that are defending Jabalia camp. Two of the battalions were previously “dismantled,” which underscores the requirement for a sustainable political and military end state in the Gaza Strip.
  • Israeli Strike in Rafah: An IDF airstrike killed two Hamas officials in Rafah on May 26, but the strike also caused a fire that killed 35 Palestinian civilians.
  • Rafah Border Crossing: Israeli and Egyptian forces exchanged small arms fire at the Rafah border crossing.
  • Lebanon: A Likud minister said that Israel will conduct a military operation targeting Hezbollah to return displaced residents from northern Israeli if political efforts to stop Hezbollah attacks into northern Israel fail. This statement echoes previous Israeli statements about the possibility of operations into Lebanon.

Iran Update, May 26, 2024

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Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: The IDF withdrew its Givati Brigade from Rafah, leaving four IDF brigades in Rafah.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in three locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted 13 attacks into northern Israel.
  • Yemen: The Houthis fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles into the Red Sea.

Iran Update, May 25, 2024

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Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Moore, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: The IDF is moving “more deliberately” in Rafah, according to Israeli officers who recently left Rafah who spoke to the New York Times on May 25.
  • Humanitarian Aid in the Gaza Strip: A US Army landing craft and part of the US-constructed pier in the Gaza Strip was swept away by waves to Ashdod, Israel.
  • Lebanon: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations in the West Bank on May 25.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed one drone attack targeting an unspecified “vital target” in Eilat, southern 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 clearing operations in Jabalia on May 25. Three Israel Defense Forces (IDF) brigades are in Jabalia. The IDF Air Force killed a Hamas sniper team in the area who had fired at Israeli forces a few days earlier.[1] Palestinian militias claimed several attacks in the Beit Lahia area, north of Jabalia, indicating that the IDF is operating in some areas north of Jabalia refugee camp.[2]

The IDF 99th Division continued operations along the Netzarim corridor in southern Gaza City on May 25[3]

Israeli forces continued clearing operations in Rafah on May 25. The IDF has five brigades operating in Rafah.[4] Israeli forces located and destroyed tunnel shafts.[5] Palestinian militias engaged Israeli forces in the area using rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and rockets.[6]

The IDF is moving “more deliberately” in Rafah, according to Israeli officers who recently left Rafah who spoke to the New York Times on May 25.[7] The officers said that the IDF is using “less airpower and artillery, and fewer, smaller bombs,” which forces Israeli soldiers to clear urban areas on foot. An Israeli reserve soldier said that some Israeli forces are working near the border and others are moving into Rafah’s outskirts. This comment is largely consistent with CTP-ISW's current control of terrain assessment of reported Israeli clearing operations. The officers said that the four Hamas battalions in Rafah ”are not as well trained” as those in the northern Gaza Strip and “are not an urgent problem.” Israeli forces have described the ongoing fighting in the northern Gaza Strip around Jabalia are particularly intense.[8]

The Qatari prime minister, along with US and Israeli intelligence chiefs, agreed to resume ceasefire negotiations during a meeting in Paris on May 25.[9] Egypt did not have a representative at the meeting. An unspecified individual familiar with the talks said the meeting was “very successful” though there was no breakthrough.[10] The source said that despite Egypt’s reported actions in modifying the deal during the previous round of negotiations, Cairo will participate in the next round.[11] An Israeli media war correspondent said that Israel and the United States were disappointed with Egyptian mediators in the previous round of negotiations for unspecified reasons.[12] Egypt has dismissed Western reports that an Egyptian intelligence official secretly modified the most recent ceasefire deal before sending it to Hamas.[13] The correspondent observed that Egypt’s absence places the weight of negotiations on Qatar.[14]

A US Army landing craft and part of the US-constructed pier in the Gaza Strip was swept away by waves to Ashdod, Israel.[15] Ashdod’s Coastal Division assisted US forces on the scene.[16] Israeli media reported that a US military vessel was sailing toward the Gaza Strip when it detached from the chain of the leading ship guiding to its destination. Israeli media reported that a separate piece of the pier drifted to Ashdod. The United States has spent $320 million on the pier and deployed 1,000 soldiers and sailors to operate the pier. The pier is facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid.[17]

Palestinian militias did not conduct any indirect fire attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel on May 25. This marks the first day without such an attack since May 2.[18]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations in the West Bank on May 25.[19]

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 May 24.[20]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed one drone attack targeting an unspecified “vital target” in Eilat, southern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on May 24.[21] Israeli officials have not commented at the time of this writing.

Iran Update, May 24, 2024

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

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An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer described particularly intense fighting between the IDF and Hamas in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip in recent days.[1] This fighting highlights that Hamas remains active and combat-effective in Jabalia, despite the IDF killing Hamas’ Jabalia Refugee Camp Battalion commander in October 2023.[2] The IDF officer said that Palestinian fighters are bolder in Jabalia than in other parts of the Gaza Strip and that Palestinian fighters have established “fighting compounds” that enable them to rapidly traverse through buildings rather than exposing themselves in the streets to Israeli forces. Israeli officers have said in recent days that the fighting in Jabalia has been some of the “most violent” in the war.[3] Palestinian militias have sustained an unusually high rate of attacks there since IDF sent units to Jabalia on May 11 to clear the area.[4] The fighting since then indicates that Hamas is conducting a deliberate defense of the area against the IDF.[5]

The fighting in Jabalia indicates that Hamas could remain combat-effective in other parts of the Gaza Strip even after the IDF kills local Hamas commanders. Hamas has organized its military wing like a conventional military and has developed a deep bench of experienced military commanders to run it. Hamas therefore has junior commanders that can and are ready to assume command of units after their senior commanders are killed. Hamas uses this conventional military structure to continue fighting, despite intense Israeli military pressure. 

Israeli negotiators and international mediators will reportedly convene in Paris to restart negotiations over a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. US Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns will meet Mossad Chief David Barnea and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al Thani in Paris, according to anonymous US and Israeli officials speaking to Axios.[6] An Israeli official speaking to CNN similarly said that an Israeli delegation would soon travel to Paris.[7] A US official said that Egypt remains heavily involved in the negotiations, although it is unclear whether any Egyptian officials will participate in the meetings in Paris.[8]

Egypt has dismissed Western reports that an Egyptian intelligence official secretly modified the most recent ceasefire deal before sending it to Hamas.[9] Israel had approved the deal before the Egyptian intelligence official, Ahmed Abdel Khaleq, altered the text and sent it to Hamas. Khaleq currently leads the Egyptian mediation efforts in the ceasefire talks.[10] Khaleq was the first individual in his position to participate in a Hamas-organized event in Khan Younis in July 2018, during which he met Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar.[11] Khaleq also participated in the 2011 deal that involved Israel releasing over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including Sinwar.[12]

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to halt its clearing operation into Rafah on May 24.[13] The Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry and National Security Council responded with a joint statement saying that Israel will continue its efforts to bring humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and that Israel has and will continue to avoid conducting military operations that harm Gazan civilians.[14]

Iran’s political factions have begun to maneuver and prepare for the Iranian presidential election in June 2024 to replace Ebrahim Raisi. Iranian reformist politicians, including former President Mohammad Khatami, have argued in recent days that the election needs political diversity to encourage voter turnout.[15] These reformists are responding to how Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has allowed hardliners to marginalize moderates and reformists to an unprecedented level in recent years. Moderate and reformist figures argued that Khamenei allowing them to compete in elections would drive electoral participation, which has dropped to record lows in recent years. Reform Front spokesperson Javad Emam stated that reformist politicians will convene on May 26 to discuss the upcoming election.[16] Social media accounts have suggested that former Parliament Speaker and prominent moderate Ali Larijani plans to run as a candidate in the election.[17]

Iranian hardliners appear to be similarly organizing themselves ahead of the election. Social media accounts reported on May 24 that prominent hardliner Saeed Jalili plans to register as a candidate.[18] This rumor comes after an Iranian opposition outlet reported that elements in the regime have tried to convince Khamenei to prevent Jalili from running.[19] These elements include some moderates, such as Ali Larijani. They also include several hardliners, such as Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Sadegh Amoli Larijani, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and adviser to the supreme leader Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani.

Members of the Iranian-led Axis of Resistance are continuing to coordinate their actions vis-a-vis the Israel-Hamas war. Abu Hussein al Hamidawi, who is the secretary general of the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah (KH), held a phone call with Houthi supreme leader Abdulmalik al Houthi on May 24 to discuss the war.[20] The two discussed coordination and force readiness, according to the KH readout. Hamidawi and Abdulmalik may have discussed efforts to impose an unofficial economic blockade on Israel, given that Abdulmalik gave a speech on May 16 calling on Iranian-backed Iraqi militias to join the Houthis in attacking international shipping around the Mediterranean Sea.[21] The call also comes after CTP-ISW observed on May 23 that Iran is capitalizing on the presence of senior Axis of Resistance officials in Tehran for Ebrahim Raisi’s funeral to coordinate and cohere their approaches to the war.[22]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: There is particularly intense fighting between the IDF and Hamas in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, despite the IDF killing the local Hamas commander there in October 2023.
  • Iran: Iran’s political factions have begun to maneuver and prepare for the presidential election in June 2024 to replace Ebrahim Raisi.
  • Yemen: The Houthis are coordinating their actions vis-a-vis the Israel-Hamas war with Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian militias in at least three locations across the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least 12 attacks 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

Israeli forces recovered the bodies of three hostages in Jabalia refugee camp on May 23.[23] Hamas fighters killed the hostages during the October 7, 2023, attack before taking the bodies into the Gaza Strip.[24] The IDF 75th Battalion (7th Armored Brigade) killed Hamas lookouts and then located the tunnel shaft, where Hamas fighters kept the bodies.[25] An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported that the tunnel shaft is close to a Hamas tunnel where Israeli forces recovered four other hostages’ bodies on May 16 and May 18.[26] Israel estimates that Hamas is holding around 125 hostages in the Gaza Strip.[27] 

The IDF 99th Division continued operations along the Netzarim corridor in southern Gaza City on May 24. Israeli forces directed airstrikes and tank fire targeting nearby Palestinian fighters.[28] Hamas fighters mortared Israeli forces along the Netzarim corridor.[29]

The IDF killed the deputy commander of Hamas’ National Security Forces in the Gaza Strip, Diaa al Din al Sharafa, in the central Gaza Strip on May 23.[30] The IDF said that he was responsible for "managing the mechanism that secures the borders of the Gaza Strip” and prevented Gazans from evacuating combat zones. The Gazan Interior Ministry confirmed that an Israeli airstrike killed Sharafa.[31]

Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in eastern Rafah on May 24.[32] Israeli forces destroyed weapons depots and tunnel shafts in the area. Palestinian militias conducted improvised explosive device (IED), mortar, and small arms attacks in northeastern Rafah and at the Salah al Din gate.[33]

US CENTCOM has continued cooperating with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations to deliver aid to Gazans via the temporary pier.[34] CENTCOM has delivered 820.5 metric tons of aid to the beach, 506 metric tons of which has been transferred to the UN distribution warehouse in the central Gaza Strip as of May 22. The director of USAID's Levant Response Management Team, Daniel Dieckhaus, said that 506 metric tons of aid is enough food to “feed tens of thousands of people for a month.”[35] He also said that the quantity of aid brought through the maritime corridor will continue to grow. The United Nations resumed transportation and distribution of humanitarian aid arriving through the US-built pier after a two-day pause on May 23. The United Nations implemented the pause after an incident in which Palestinians intercepted aid trucks.[36]

Three US soldiers sustained non-combat-related injuries while supporting the US-constructed pier operation.[37] CENTCOM Deputy Commander Admiral Brad Cooper said that two of the injuries were minor.[38] The third soldier is undergoing care at an Israeli hospital after sustaining an injury on a ship at sea.[39]

The United States is considering appointing a US official to serve as the top civilian adviser to a primarily Palestinian force in the Gaza Strip after the war ends.[40] Four anonymous US officials told Politico that the adviser would be based in the Middle East but would never enter the Gaza Strip.[41] The adviser would be of Arab and/or Palestinian descent and work closely with the commanding officer of the local force. The White House, Department of Defense, and Department of State are continuing private discussions about the adviser's potential role. The anonymous US officials said that this adviser is one of many ideas that US officials are considering for a post-war scenario in the Gaza Strip. One of the US officials said that recent conversations between the United States, Israel, and other unspecified Middle Eastern partners are focused on transitioning to “a more political phase and stabilization phase.” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan recently met with senior officials in Israel and Saudi Arabia.[42]

Palestinian militias have conducted two indirect fire attacks into Israel since CTP-ISW's information cutoff on May 23.[43] Israeli Army Radio reported that Palestinian fighters fired two rockets from Gaza City, which landed in open areas in Israel.[44] Alarms sounded in Ofakim for the first time since January 2024.[45] The IDF Air Force struck the area in Gaza City, from which Palestinian fighters had fired the rockets.[46]

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 23.[47] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fired small arms and detonated IEDs targeting Israeli forces in Balata refugee camp in Nablus.[48]

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 into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 23.[49] Hezbollah claimed that three of the attacks were in retaliation for recent Israeli airstrikes into southern Lebanon.[50]

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gave a televised speech during a memorial ceremony for late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on May 24.[51] Nasrallah said that Raisi and his late foreign affairs minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, were committed to supporting the Axis of Resistance with arms, training, and funding.[52] Nasrallah also boasted that the Israel-Hamas war has driven Israel into international isolation, citing Ireland’s, Norway’s, and Spain’s recognition of Palestinian statehood and the International Criminal Court requesting arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant.[53] Nasrallah added that Netanyahu should ”expect surprises from our resistance,” presumably referring to Hezbollah.[54]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—conducted two drone attacks targeting Eilat and Haifa port since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on May 23.[55] The IDF reported that Israeli fighter jets intercepted four drones in total.[56]

The Houthis claimed three separate attacks targeting vessels in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.[57] The Houthis targeted the Panamanian-flagged MSC Alexandria with a surface-to-surface missile off the coast of Yemen. The Houthis also claimed that they conducted a complex attack targeting the Panamanian-flagged YANNIS in the Red Sea with a one-way attack drone and surface-to-surface missiles. CENTCOM reported that Houthi fighters launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles into the Red Sea on May 23.[58] No damage or injuries were reported from the attack. The Houthis also claimed a surface-to-surface missile attack targeting the Liberian-flagged ESSEX in the Mediterranean Sea, although.[59]

An unnamed senior European diplomat expressed concern to Reuters regarding the Iranian nuclear program.[60] The diplomat stated that Iran has not slowed down its nuclear program nor has it demonstrated “goodwill” to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). A separate European official stated that unspecified countries have prepared a resolution against Iran to be presented in the next IAEA Board of Governors meeting on July 3.[61]

 

 

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Alexandra Braverman, Kathyrn Tyson, Annika Ganzeveld, Kelly Campa, Andie Parry, Johanna Moore, and Nicholas Carl

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Iran is capitalizing on the presence of senior Axis of Resistance officials in Tehran for Ebrahim Raisi’s funeral to coordinate and cohere their approaches to the Israel–Hamas war. Iranian leaders held two meetings with senior Axis of Resistance officials in Tehran on May 23.[1] The first meeting included senior IRGC officers and representatives from several Palestinian militias, Lebanese Hezbollah, and the Houthis.[2] The participants discussed the “continuation of the jihad and struggle until the complete victory of the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip.” Photos published by Iranian state media indicate that the following individuals were in that meeting:

  • IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami
  • IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani
  • Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh
  • Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Deputy Secretary General Mohammad al Hindi
  • Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Deputy Secretary General Jamil Mezher
  • Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem
  • Houthi spokesperson Mohammad Abdul Salam

The second meeting involved the following individuals based on photos published by Iranian state media:

  • Acting Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Bagheri Kani
  • Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh
  • Hamas founder Mousa Abu Marzouk
  • Hamas Deputy Leader in the West Bank Zaher Jabarin
  • PIJ Deputy Secretary General Mohammad al Hindi
  • PIJ Leader in Lebanon Ihsan Ataya
  • PFLP Deputy Secretary General Jamil Mezher

The publication of this information is especially noteworthy given that Iranian state media does not typically report on such meetings in such detail. Iran likely published the information to signal the close alignment and cooperation between Tehran and its regional partners and proxies.

The IDF found tunnels used by Palestinian militias during a two-day operation into Jenin City in the West Bank.[3] The IDF announced that hundreds of Israeli personnel participated in the operation to destroy militia infrastructure, including tunnels, and kill Palestinian fighters. The IDF engaged fighters from Hamas and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades during the operation.[4]

The IDF targeted tunnels in Jenin City as part of an Israeli effort to destroy militia capabilities and infrastructure, especially tunnels, in the West Bank before Palestinian militias can use them to attack Israel. IDF Chief of Staff Major General Herzi Halevi framed the operation into Jenin City in such terms on May 22.[5] The IDF seeks to prevent Palestinian militias from building tunnels around the Israel-West Bank border that would support offensive cross-border attacks like what Hamas did in October 2023. The IDF has targeted other tunnels around the Israel-West Bank border in recent months to this end. The IDF discovered and destroyed a tunnel that was dozens of meters long in the Jenin refugee camp in July 2023, for instance.[6] Israeli media separately reported in March 2024 that the IDF has found tunnel shafts in the Nour Shams refugee camp in Tulkarm, which like Jenin is close to the border with Israel.[7]

Palestinian militias building offensive tunnels in the West Bank could be at least partly based on how Iranian leaders are planning to destroy Israel in the long term. Senior Iranian military officers are arguing that their Axis of Resistance should launch surprise ground attacks into Israel from Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank.[8] Their thinking proceeds from the theory that protracted ground campaigns into Israel would disrupt the Israeli political and social order and compel Jewish citizens to flee Israel. Major General Gholam Ali Rashid, who is a senior Iranian military decisionmaker responsible for joint operations, asserted on May 4 that a force of 10,000 fighters from Lebanon, 10,000 fighters from the Gaza Strip, and 2,000-3,000 from the West Bank would be enough to destabilize Israel in this manner.[9] The tunnels that the IDF is targeting could facilitate attacks along the lines that Iranian leaders have described by helping Palestinian fighters move into Israel and stage follow-on ground attacks.

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Iran is capitalizing on the presence of senior Axis of Resistance officials in Tehran for Ebrahim Raisi’s funeral to coordinate and cohere their approaches to the Israel–Hamas war.
  • West Bank: The IDF found militia tunnels in Jenin as part of an Israeli effort to destroy militia capabilities and tunnels in the West Bank before they can be used to attack Israel.
  • Gaza Strip: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced that Israel would deploy additional military assets to Rafah.
  • Yemen: The Houthi supreme leader announced that the Houthis attacked international shipping in the Mediterranean Sea in recent days. There is no evidence to support this claim.

Iran Update, May 22, 2024

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Ashka Jhaveri, Alexandra Braverman, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Kathryn Tyson, Johanna Moore, and Thomas Bergeron

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Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei presided over the funeral for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and others in Tehran on May 22.[1] Ebrahim Raisi, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and six other passengers and crew members died in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran on May 19.[2] Heads of state and senior leaders from dozens of countries attended the funeral.[3] Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Chairman of the Russian Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing, among others, attended the funeral in Tehran.[4] Senior Axis of Resistance leaders—including Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh, Lebanese Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem, member of Hamas Political Bureau Osama Hamdan, and two Popular Mobilization Forces officials—also attended the funeral.[5] Many senior Iranian officials attended the ceremony. Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council Sadegh Larijani, hardline cleric and Raisi’s father-in-law Ahmad Alam ol Hoda, Assembly of Experts First Deputy Chairman Hashem Hosseini Bushehri, and Assembly of Experts member Mohsen Qomi sat in the front row next to Khamenei during the ceremony.[6] Notable individuals who CTP-ISW did not observe attending the funeral include former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and member of the Iranian Assembly of Experts Ahmad Khatami. IRGC-affiliated media published images of thousands of citizens in the streets of Tehran in mourning.[7]

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei led the prayers over the bodies of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian at Tehran University.[8] Khamenei recited a Quranic mourning prayer over the bodies of the deceased.[9] Ismail Haniyeh gave a speech as part of the funeral ceremony. Haniyeh praised Raisi’s support for the Palestinian resistance and claimed that Hamas’ October 7, 2023 attack on Israel created a “global transformation.”[10] Iran will hold two additional funeral ceremonies in other cities on May 23.[11] Raisi will be buried in Mashad on May 23.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stressed the continuity of Iranian foreign policy in meetings with several foreign dignitaries who attended Raisi’s funeral. Khamenei held separate meetings with senior officials from Armenia, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Tunisia, and Qatar as well as Hamas officials to emphasize Iran’s commitment to preserving ties with these actors.[12] Iranian media claimed that officials from over 90 countries attended Raisi’s funeral procession, making Khamenei’s meeting with these seven actors particularly noteworthy.[13] Interim President Mohammad Mokhber and Interim Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Bagheri Kani attended the meetings that Khamenei held with Iraqi, Hamas, and Pakistani officials, suggesting that Khamenei is particularly concerned about projecting continuity to these actors.[14] It is possible that Mokhber and Bagheri Kani attended other meetings as well. Khamenei emphasized Mokhber’s presidential powers and Iran‘s uninterrupted commitment to its partnerships in several of these meetings.[15] Iran may delay some diplomatic processes, such as negotiations, however, until it elects its next president.

The regime may seek to leverage perceived international sympathy for Raisi’s death to forge ties with new strategic partners. Iranian media and regime-affiliated social media users boasted that some Egyptian and Tunisian officials traveled to Iran for the first time to attend Raisi’s funeral and celebrated international turnout.[16]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei presided over the funeral for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and others in Tehran.
  • Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stressed the continuity of Iranian foreign policy in meetings with several foreign dignitaries who attended Raisi’s funeral.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued clearing operations in Jabalia.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces are advancing along the Philadelphi Corridor in Rafah.
  • West Bank: The IDF continued an operation targeting Palestinian fighters and military infrastructure in Jenin.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi discussed Israel’s military readiness on its northern border with several senior IDF commanders.
  • Yemen: Houthi media claimed that the United States and the United Kingdom conducted airstrikes targeting the Hudaydah International Airport in Yemen.

 

Iran Update, May 21, 2024

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

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

The Iranian Assembly of Experts elected its leadership board on May 21, marking a new era for the body responsible for selecting the next supreme leader.[1] The Assembly of Experts is an Iranian regime entity constitutionally responsible for monitoring the supreme leader and selecting his successor. Assembly of Experts leadership board members serve two-year terms. This is the first time since 2016 that the Assembly of Experts has not been led by influential cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati.

This Assembly of Experts leadership board election is particularly significant given Khamenei’s old age and Raisi’s recent death. Khamenei is 84 years old and will be 92 by the time of the next Assembly of Experts election in 2032.[2] The 88 representatives elected to the Assembly of Experts in March 2024 will at least formally choose Khamenei’s successor if he dies or otherwise leaves his post before then.[3] Other powerbrokers within the regime—such as the IRGC—will undoubtably informally influence supreme leader succession as well. It is also possible, but not certain, that one of the newly chosen Assembly of Experts leaders could succeed Khamenei as supreme leader. All of the chairmen and secretaries hold the rank of Ayatollah—a prerequisite to become supreme leader—and all of them, besides Kermani, are in their 60s.

The Assembly of Experts elected the following individuals to leadership positions:

  • Chairman: Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani.[4] Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed Kermani as an interim Tehran Friday prayer leader in December 2012.[5] Kermani also served as Khamenei’s representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) for 14 years between February 1992 and January 2006.[6] Kermani previously served as the second deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts until February 2023.[7] 55 out of 83 Assembly of Experts members voted for Kermani to become chairman.[8] Kermani is 93 years old.[9]
  • First Deputy Chairman: Ayatollah Hashem Hosseini Bushehri.[10] Bushehri is the Qom Friday prayer leader and the head of the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom.[11] The Assembly of Experts elected Bushehri to replace Kermani as the second deputy chairman in February 2023.[12] Bushehri’s tenure as second deputy chairman overlapped with former President Ebrahim Raisi’s tenure as first deputy chairman.[13] Bushehri is 68 years old.
  • Second Deputy Chairman: Ayatollah Ali Reza Arafi.[14] Khamenei appointed Arafi as the director of all seminaries across Iran in 2016.[15] Khamenei later appointed Arafi as a member of the Guardian Council—a 12-member regime body responsible for supervising elections, vetting candidates, and approving legislation—in 2019.[16] Arafi has not previously held a leadership position in the Assembly of Experts. Arafi is 68 years old.
  • Secretary: Ayatollah Mohsen Araki.[17] Khamenei appointed Araki as a member of the Expediency Discernment Council in 2022.[18] He has served as a member of the Assembly of Experts since 1998.[19] The Assembly of Experts elected Araki as a cultural manager in February 2023.[20] Araki replaced Guardian Council member and Tehran interim Friday prayer leader Ahmad Khatami as one of the Assembly of Experts secretaries.[21] Araki is 68 years old.
  • Secretary: Ayatollah Abbas Kaabi.[22] Kaabi is continuing his role as a Secretary of the Assembly of Experts.[23] Kaabi is 62 years old

Two anonymous sources told Reuters on May 21 that the Assembly of Experts removed former President Ebrahim Raisi from the list of potential supreme leader successors in November 2023 due to his declining popularity.[24] There is reportedly a three-member committee in the Assembly of Experts that is responsible for preparing a list of potential candidates to succeed Khamenei.[25] Raisi was reportedly a member of this committee, so it is unclear how the Assembly of Experts could have removed his name from the list.[26] One of the sources told Reuters that clerics who supported Raisi lobbied “intensively” to have his name added back to the list.[27] CTP-ISW cannot independently verify these claims. It is notable that the sources told Reuters Raisi was no longer in the running to become supreme leader at a time when it is convenient for the Iranian regime to assure its people and those within the regime that Raisi’s death did not disrupt the supreme leader succession process.

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: The Iranian Assembly of Experts elected its leadership board on May 21, marking a new era for the body responsible for selecting the next supreme leader. This election is particularly important given the supreme leader’s age (84) and the recent death of the Iranian president. The assembly formally chooses the supreme leader and informally influences supreme leader succession.
  • Gaza Strip: The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the IDF’s failure to hold territory after clearing it is allowing Hamas to return to previously cleared areas.
  • Humanitarian Aid: The United States said that no humanitarian aid from the US-constructed temporary pier in the central Gaza Strip has reached the broader Palestinian population.
  • West Bank: The IDF intentionally detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device on May 20 in Tubas.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: The IDF intercepted a “suspicious aerial target” over Syria before it entered Israeli territory.

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 clearing operations in Jabalia on May 21. Three IDF brigades are operating in Jabalia.[28] The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 7th Armored Brigade directed an airstrike targeting a Palestinian cell that fired at Israeli forces. Israeli forces found hand grenades, explosives, and other weapons while raiding Palestinian militia infrastructure.[29] Palestinian fighters engaged Israeli forces in Jabalia refugee camp and east of the city using mortars, small arms, and improvised explosive devices (IED).[30]

The IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi visited Israeli forces in Jabalia on May 21.[31] Halevi met with commanders whose units recovered the bodies of four Israeli hostages in Jabalia refugee camp.[32] Halevi said that the IDF seeks to kill as many Palestinian militia commanders and fighters as possible, destroy military infrastructure, and return dead and living hostages to Israel.

The IDF 99th Division continued operations along the Netzarim corridor in southern Gaza City on May 21.[33] The IDF 679th Reservist Armored Brigade (attached to the 99th Division) directed an airstrike targeting Palestinian fighters in the area.[34] The brigade began an operation on May 20 to destroy militia infrastructure, such as tunnels, in Gaza City's Sabra neighborhood.[35] The 99th Division was previously operating in Zaytoun neighborhood, south of Sabra.[36]

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr. said on May 20 that Israel’s strategy in the northern Gaza Strip is making “achieving lasting stability more difficult.”[37] Brown said that Israel has not been holding territory after conducting clearing operations, which allows Hamas to return to those areas. Israeli officials, including the IDF chief of staff, have criticized Israels current operational concept because it lacks a clear post-war plan’.[38] CTP-ISW has previously observed that Hamas has exploited Israeli withdrawals from the northern Gaza Strip to begin reconstituting there.[39]

The IDF engaged Palestinian fighters in eastern Rafah on May 21. The IDF Givati Brigade detained three Palestinian fighters who emerged from a tunnel in the area.[40] The IDF also confirmed that the Nahal Brigade is operating in Rafah. The Nahal Brigade captured a tunnel shaft where Palestinian militias had stored RPGs, grenades, and other explosive devices.[41] The IDF currently has five brigades operating in Rafah.[42] A Palestinian journalist reported on May 21 that Israeli forces have not made any advances into urban areas of Rafah but are advancing along the Philadelphi Corridor.[43] Two Palestinian militias mortared Israeli forces operating in eastern Rafah.[44]

The Washington Post reported on May 20 that Israel is planning a limited attack targeting Hamas in Rafah.[45] Unspecified officials said that US officials believe that the plan will result in fewer civilian casualties. The IDF was previously planning on sending two divisions into Rafah to destroy Hamas’ four remaining battalions there.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan presented a proposal for ending the war to senior Israeli officials during his visit to Israel on May 19.[46] An Israeli journalist cited unspecified officials who said that the proposal includes a path to normalization with Saudi Arabia, an expanded regional security architecture to counter Iran that includes regional countries and the United States, funds to invest in the Gaza Strip, a deal for the release of hostages, and the promotion of a political agreement with Lebanese Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border.[47] Israel would be required to end the war, declare plans to pursue a political solution for Palestine, and agree on a mechanism for managing the Gaza Strip that does not involve Hamas or a military government.[48] The sources said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not say “no” to the proposal, but the two sides did not agree on unspecified details.[49] The US proposal states that Hamas cannot govern the Gaza Strip but fails to explain how the United States or Israel could ensure that outcome. Hamas has already attempted to reassert its governing authority during the war, especially in the northern Gaza Strip.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on May 21 that Israel will need to decide if it will agree to end the war in the Gaza Strip and take part in a “credible pathway to a Palestinian state” to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia.[50] Saudi Arabia has conditioned normalization with Israel on a path to Palestinian statehood.[51] Blinken said that bilateral agreements between the United States and Saudi Arabia would be worked out “relatively quick given all the work that’s been done.”

The United States said that no humanitarian aid from the US-constructed temporary pier in the central Gaza Strip has reached the broader Palestinian population.[52] US Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said on May 21 that the pier has facilitated the delivery of 569 metric tons of humanitarian aid. The United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emierates, European Union and other unspecified US partners have donated the aid. Ryder said that unspecified people or agencies still need to distribute the aid, which has so far only been delivered to the shore. Palestinians intercepted trucks delivering aid from the pier over the weekend which led the UN to suspend delivery operations.[53] Ryder said that the United States and the UN are working to establish ”alternative routes” for the safe delivery of the aid. US officials previously hoped that the pier would process about 90 trucks of aid per day, later raising the number to 150.[54]

Palestinian militias conducted one indirect fire attack from the Gaza Strip into Israel on May 21.[55] The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Palestinian Islamic Jihad conducted a combined rocket attack targeting Ashkelon.[56]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

The IDF launched an operation in Jenin on May 21 targeting Hamas and PIJ personnel and Palestinian militia infrastructure in Jenin.[57] Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least six locations in Jenin during the operation.[58] PIJ and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades targeted Israeli forces with small arms fire and improvised explosive devices (IED).[59] Palestinian media claimed that Palestinian fighters detonated at least 14 IEDs targeting Israeli forces in Jenin.[60] The IDF later deployed reinforcements to Jenin to support the IDF units already there engaging Palestinian militias.[61] The IDF reported that it is investigating claims that seven civilians were killed during fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters.[62]

Israeli forces destroyed a home in Jenin that belonged to a Palestinian fighter who had conducted two shooting attacks, one of which killed Israeli economist Meir Tamari.[63] The IDF killed the Palestinian fighter in an airstrike in March 2024.

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least 10 locations in the West Bank including Jenin since CTP-ISW's data cut off on May 20.[64] Unidentified Palestinian fighters shot at an unspecified vehicle near the Bekaot settlement in the Jordan Valley.[65] No casualties were reported from the attack. The IDF established checkpoints in the Jordan Valley following the incident.

The IDF intentionally detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device on May 20 in Tubas.[66] This is the second VBIED that the IDF has discovered in Tubas since the Israel-Hamas war began in October 2023.[67] It is unclear how sophisticated this VBIED was. An Israeli military correspondent reported that Palestinian militias have started using larger and higher quality explosives to target Israeli forces ”in recent months.”[68] Jordan has thwarted numerous attempts in recent months by Iran and its partners to smuggle weapons—including Claymore mines, C4, Semtex, Kalashnikovs, and 107mm Katyusha rockets—into the West Bank and Jordan.[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 9 attacks into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 20.[70]

The IDF killed Lebanese Hezbollah commander Qassem Saqlawi in a drone strike in Tyre, southern Lebanon on May 20.[71] The IDF stated that Saqlawi commanded rocket and missile units in Hezbollah’s Coastal Sector and had conducted numerous rocket and anti-tank guided missile attacks targeting Israel. Hezbollah mourned Saqlawi’s death on May 20.[72]

The IDF intercepted a “suspicious aerial target” over Syria before it entered Israeli territory on May 20.[73] The Islamic Resistance of Iraq—an umbrella group of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—launched a drone attack targeting an IDF military base in the Golan Heights on May 20.[74] A southern Syrian journalist reported that the IDF shot down drones over the Yarmouk Basin, Daraa, towards the Golan Heights.[75]

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Iranian government announced new details about the upcoming June 28 presidential election to replace recently deceased President Ebrahim Raisi. Raisi’s term would have ended in August 2025.[76] The newly elected president will serve a full four-year presidential term rather than the remainder of Raisi’s term, however. Iranian Election Headquarters Spokesperson Mohsen Eslami announced the timeline for the June 28 presidential election on May 21.[77] Eslami stated that presidential candidates can register between May 30 and June 3. The Guardian Council will then review the presidential candidates between June 4 and June 10. The Interior Ministry will announce the list of presidential candidates on June 11. The approved presidential candidates will campaign from June 12 to June 26. Campaigning will end on June 27 and the election will be held on June 28. The second round of elections will be held on July 5, if required. A runoff election is required if a presidential candidate does not win an absolute majority of votes in the first round, according to the Iranian constitution.[78] Eslami stated that officials are preparing for citizens to be able to vote electronically in Tehran and other major cities.[79]

United Kingdom-based Iranian opposition media reported on May 21 that various Iranian politicians are lobbying the Office of the Supreme Leader to prevent hardliner Saeed Jalali from entering the upcoming presidential election.[80] Key officials including Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Expediency Council member Ali Larijani, and political advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Shamkhani are lobbying against Jalali’s candidacy. Jalali is one of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representatives to the Supreme National Security Council. He is also an Expediency Council member. Jalali is likely to run for election. He previously ran for president in 2021 but withdrew in favor of Ebrahim Raisi.[81]

Houthi military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yahya Sarea claimed that the Houthis shot down a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over a Houthi-controlled area of al Bayda Governorate, Yemen, on May 21.[82] Sarea claimed the Houthis used a “locally made” surface-to-air missile to shoot down the drone. Sarea previously claimed that the Houthis shot down a US MQ-9 Reaper drone over a Houthi-controlled area of Ma’rib Governorate, Yemen, on May 16.[83] CENTCOM has not acknowledged either incident. CTP-ISW cannot verify that the Houthis shot down either MQ-9.

The Islamic Resistance of Iraq —an umbrella group of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—launched two drones on May 20 targeting an unspecified “vital target” in Eilat.[84] Israeli fighter jets and an IDF Navy missile boat intercepted two aerial targets approaching Israeli territory from the east on May 20.[85] Locals in Eilat said that they saw the IDF intercept at least one drone off the coast of Eilat.[86] The IDF reported that the drones did not enter Israeli territory.

Iran Update, May 20, 2024

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Annika Ganzeveld, Andie Parry, Kathryn Tyson, Kelly Campa, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran on May 19.[1] His death upends Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s multi-year project of grooming Raisi to become the next supreme leader. Khamenei has invested tremendous energy and time in preparing Raisi in recent years, appointing him to key positions and engineering the presidential election in 2021 to ensure that he won.[2] Raisi’s death is a shock to both the day-to-day management of the Iranian government as well as to Khamenei’s long-term vision for the regime.

There is no obvious top contender to become the next supreme leader since Raisi died. One of Khamenei’s sons, Mojtaba Khamenei, is widely considered a leading candidate. Mojtaba has significant influence in the regime, especially in the internal security apparatus. Though Mojtaba certainly could replace his father, it is premature to say that he is the most likely option. Khamenei and other powerful factions that have supported Raisi for years must now reconsider who they would like to become the next supreme leader. They will not necessarily support Mojtaba. A member of the Assembly of Experts stated in February 2024 that Khamenei opposes hereditary succession, in fact.[3]

The regime must fill several key positions in the coming days and weeks, which could provide insight into how Khamenei and other factions are considering succession since Raisi died. The Assembly of Experts, which is the regime body responsible for monitoring and selecting the supreme leader, is scheduled to elect its leadership board on May 21.[4] That board includes the chairman and deputy chairman, which are both currently vacant. Raisi was the previous deputy chairman. Parliament is similarly scheduled to elect a new speaker on May 27.[5] Iran will also hold a presidential election on June 28.[6]

Khamenei will need to decide whether to interfere in any of these elections’ outcomes to prepare for succession. Any prominent cleric in one of these positions would become a natural contender for supreme leadership even though there is no legal requirement for the supreme leader to hold such offices beforehand. Khamenei could, on the other hand, refrain from making an immediate decision on who he would like to succeed him.

An indicator that Khamenei is positioning an individual to succeed him would be Khamenei allowing a cleric to become the next president or parliament speaker. This indicator would be especially strong if that cleric is in their 60s or 70s. Khamenei would probably avoid supporting a cleric much older, given that they would have a higher risk of dying and triggering another succession crisis sooner.

Iranian Interim President Mohammad Mokhber appointed Ali Bagheri Kani as head of the administration's Foreign Relations Council, making Bagheri Kani the de-facto acting foreign affairs minister, on May 20.[7] Bagheri Kani replaces Hossein Amir Abdollahian, who died alongside Ebrahim Raisi in the helicopter crash in northwestern Iran on May 19.[8] Bagheri Kani will serve in his new position until the next Iranian president enters office. Bagheri Kani has held several key roles in the Iranian regime. He had been most recently the deputy foreign affairs minister for policy and lead negotiator in the nuclear talks since 2021.[9] Bagheri Kani also served as the deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) from 2008 to 2013.[10] The SNSC is comprised of senior military and political officials and responsible for advising the supreme leader on foreign policy and national security.

The Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, has submitted an application to the court to obtain arrest warrants for Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, Hamas military wing commander Mohammed Deif, and Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh on May 20 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity involving extermination, murder, torture, and sexual violence.[11]

The Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has submitted an application to the court to obtain arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on May 20 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity involving the starvation of civilians.[12]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran. His death upends Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s multi-year project grooming Raisi to become the next supreme leader.
  • Israel: The Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has submitted an application to the court to obtain arrest warrants for several Hamas and Israeli officials.
  • Gaza Strip: Israeli forces have continued to expand the extent of their clearing operation in eastern Rafah.
  • Syria: Israel was likely responsible for two airstrikes targeting pro-Syrian regime targets in Syria in recent days.
  • Yemen: The Houthis fired an anti-ship ballistic missile into the Gulf of Aden.

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

Click here to read the full report with maps

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

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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