Israeli forces are operating in Khan Younis as part of the Israel Defense Force (IDF)’s effort to target senior Hamas commanders. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on December 6 that the Israeli military had encircled Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar’s house in Khan Younis. Residents in the area told Reuters that Israeli tanks neared his home. IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that Sinwar is likely underground in Hamas’ extensive tunnel network. Israel has claimed repeatedly that senior political and military Hamas leadership, including Sinwar and Hamas’ military chief Mohammed Deif, are hiding in Khan Younis.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov credited Western security assistance for empowering Ukrainian forces to liberate half of the territory that Russia occupied since February 24, 2022. Umerov credited Western security assistance for previous Ukrainian counteroffensive success during an interview with Fox News on December 5 and stated that the Ukrainian forces have a plan for 2024. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on November 8 that the Ukrainian forces have planned for several paths of future advance in 2024 to liberate more of the occupied territories. ISW continues to assess that Ukraine must liberate strategically vital areas still under Russian occupation to ensure Ukraine’s long-term security and economic viability. Umerov also stated that Ukraine plans to conduct all calculations for procurement, acquisition, planning, and operations according to NATO standards and that the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) first priority is Ukraine’s accession to NATO. The adoption of NATO standards throughout the Ukrainian military and defense establishment will facilitate NATO oversight of current and future Western security assistance to Ukraine.
Palestinian militia fighters continued to use more sophisticated tactics to target Israeli forces throughout the Gaza Strip on December 5. This is consistent with the tactical shift CTP-ISW has observed since the end of the humanitarian pause. The al Qassem Brigades—the militant wing of Hamas—claimed that its fighters detonated a house-borne improvised explosive device (HBIED) targeting Israeli forces east of Khan Younis on December 5. The HBIED collapsed the building. The group claimed that it detonated multiple claymore-type, anti-personnel mines in an ambush east of Khan Younis on December 5. The al Qassem Brigades also targeted an Israeli tank with an EFP north of Khan Younis on December 4. Al Qassem Brigades fighters inside an Israeli cantonment filmed Israeli soldiers relaxing inside the position near Juhor ad Dik. The group claimed that they filled a tunnel under the cantonment with explosives and detonated it "among 60 Israeli soldiers.”
Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted successful drone strikes against Russian military targets in occupied Crimea on the night of December 4 to 5. Ukrainian media reported on December 5, citing sources in the Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) and Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), that GUR and SBU elements struck a Russian military oil terminal in Feodosia, a Nebo-M radar system near Baherove (13km west of Kerch), and a helicopter landing pad, P-18 Terek radar system, and a Baikal-1M anti-aircraft missile control system in unspecified areas of Crimea. Russian sources, including the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), claimed that Russian air defenses, electronic warfare (EW) systems, and small-arms fire downed up to 35 Ukrainian drones near Baherove, Feodosia, Cape Chauda, and over the Sea of Azov but did not say that any Ukrainian drones struck their intended targets. Another group of Russian sources, including Kherson Oblast occupation head Vladimir Saldo, claimed that Russian air defenses downed up to 41 Ukrainian drones over northern Crimea and the Sea of Azov and claimed that Ukrainian forces attempted to strike Russian air defense systems and fuel storage facilities.
Israel continued to conduct clearing operations in the northern Gaza Strip to encircle Hamas in Shujaiya neighborhood and Jabalia city. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant observed Israeli forces in Shujaiya and Jabalia on December 4 and noted that the forces have returned there to “close the circle.” The Wall Street Journal reported that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have cornered Hamas fighters in the last two strongholds in the northern Gaza Strip. An IDF spokesperson issued a warning to Hamas commanders in Shujaiya that they are targets and that Israel will use extreme force in the neighborhood to dismantle Hamas military infrastructure on December 3.
Russia continues to reckon with the economic ramifications of labor shortages partially resulting from the war in Ukraine. Russian state media outlets reported on December 4 that Russian consulting company Yakov and Partners has recorded increased labor shortages in domestic production that will likely grow to a deficit of two to four million workers by 2030, 90 percent of whom are likely to be semi-skilled workers in critical industries. Yakov and Partners noted that this supply shortage will place upward pressure on workers’ wages that will outpace GDP growth and make Russian companies even less attractive to foreign investment.
Hamas has used increasingly sophisticated tactics against Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip since the humanitarian pause ended on December 1. Hamas and other Palestinian militias have used explosively formed penetrators (EFP) five times since December 1. These attacks mark a noteworthy increase in the use of EFPs in the Israel-Hamas war. Hamas claimed that it used EFPs only twice prior to December 1, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) claimed no EFP attacks prior to December 2. Hamas separately conducted a complex ambush targeting Israeli forces northeast of Khan Younis on December 3 (see below). Hamas also released a video on December 2 showing its force launching three one-way attack drones targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have not confirmed that Hamas is employing these systems or tactics against its forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s December 1 decree is likely a formal recognition of the Russian military’s current end strength and not an order to immediately increase the number of Russian military personnel. Putin signed a decree on December 1 increasing the official end strength of the Russian military from 2.039 million personnel to 2.209 million personnel and total Russian combat personnel from 1.15 million to 1.32 million. The increase of 170,000 Russian combat personnel between Putin’s previous August 25, 2022 decree and the December 1, 2023 decree is likely a formal acknowledgement of a net increase of 170,000 combat personnel between August 25, 2022, and December 1, 2023, and not a call to immediately increase the current number of combat personnel by an additional 170,000. Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev claimed on November 9 that the Russian military has recruited 410,000 contract, volunteer, and conscripted military personnel since January 1, 2023, then later claimed on December 1 that the Russian military has recruited over 452,000 personnel since January 1, 2023.The Russian government announced in September 2022 that the Russian military would mobilize 300,000 personnel under Putin’s partial mobilization decree. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated on November 29 that Russian forces have suffered over 300,000 casualties (killed and wounded personnel) in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.Ongoing widespread crypto-mobilization efforts (such as volunteer recruitment and the coercion of migrants into the Russian military), partial mobilization, the number of Russian personnel concluding military service, and Russian casualties in Ukraine plausibly account for a net 170,000-combat personnel increase between August 25, 2022, and December 1, 2023. Putin’s December 1, 2023 decree is thus likely establishing 2.209 million personnel as the new official end strength rather than ordering a significant new increase in the total size of the Russian military.
The IDF Arabic-language spokesperson released on X (Twitter) at 0222 ET on December 2 specific evacuation orders covering Jabalia, Gaza city, and eastern Rafah and Khan Younis governorates. The orders highlight specific blocks and neighborhoods in these areas. The evacuation notices called for civilians to go to “known shelters.”
Poor weather conditions continue to slow the pace of Ukrainian and Russian combat operations across the entire frontline but have not completely halted them. Ukrainian Ground Forces Command Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Volodymyr Fityo stated that Russian forces actively use aviation in the Bakhmut direction when the weather permits it. Fityo added that weather does not significantly affect Russian artillery fire in the Bakhmut direction. Russian milbloggers, claimed on December 1 that strong winds near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast prevented Russian forces from using drones and artillery over the past two days, however. A Russian milblogger claimed that although light rain allows Russian forces to conduct aerial reconnaissance near Verbove (9km east of Robotyne) the muddy terrain makes it challenging for infantry and wheeled vehicles to advance in western Zaporizhia Oblast. The milblogger added that Russian forces can only move on tracked vehicles and that Ukrainian forces continue intense artillery fire despite the poor weather conditions in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Zaporizhia Oblast occupation official Vladimir Rogov amplified footage on December 2 that shows muddy roads on the Robotyne-Novoprokopivka-Verbove line in western Zaporizhia Oblast and claimed that these conditions have practically immobilized Ukrainian wheeled vehicles, forcing Ukrainian troops to conduct infantry-only attacks. Rogov amplified additional footage showing an infestation of rats and mice in a Ukrainian trench in Zaporizhia Oblast, which he claimed was the result of the cold weather in the region.