Iran Update, November 27, 2023

November 27, 2023 - ISW Press

Hamas and Israel completed the fourth swap of Hamas-held hostages for Israeli-held prisoners on November 27 in accordance with their humanitarian pause agreement. Hamas released 11 Israeli hostages.Israel is set to release three women and 30 others, including minors, in exchange. Palestinian media sources, including Hamas-affiliated outlets, reported that Israel released some of the prisoners at the time of writing. The parties had delayed the exchange briefly, as Israel and Hamas disagreed on which hostages Hamas would release. Hamas had sent a list of hostages to be released to Israel on November 26 that Israel renegotiated on November 27, causing the delay.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 27, 2023

November 27, 2023 - ISW Press

A cyclone in the Black Sea and southern Ukraine caused infrastructure damage in many areas of coastal southern Russia and occupied Ukraine and is impacting the tempo of military operations along the frontline in Ukraine, but has notably not stopped military activity entirely. Despite the challenging weather conditions, both Russian and Ukrainian forces are continuing ground attacks throughout Ukraine, albeit at a slightly slower pace due to snow and resulting poor visibility. Russian milbloggers noted that heavy snow and winds have reduced visibility and complicated aerial reconnaissance and artillery correction in the Kherson direction, but noted that Ukrainian forces have taken advantage of low visibility conditions to consolidate positions on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River. Challenging winter conditions will force both sides to rely more heavily on infantry-led ground attacks in the absence of aerial reconnaissance and artillery correction capabilities.

Iran Update, November 26, 2023

November 26, 2023 - ISW Press

Neither Israel nor Hamas claimed violations of the humanitarian pause in the Gaza Strip as they completed the third swap of Hamas-held hostages for Israeli-held prisoners on November 26. Israel and Hamas confirmed that Hamas released 17 hostages held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for Israel releasing 39 Palestinian prisoners. The hostages included the first American whom Hamas has released since the war began. Hamas also released a Russian citizen whom they claimed that they released because of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for the Palestinian cause. Russia hosted Hamas leadership in Moscow on October 26. Hamas separately said on November 26 that it seeks to extend the pause after the four-day period ends on November 27. Israeli Army Radio reported that there are efforts to extend the pause by an additional four days in return for Hamas releasing 40 hostages. This report is consistent with previous reports saying that Israel and Hamas agreed to extend the pause for 24 hours for every 10 hostages released by Hamas.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 26, 2023

November 26, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian forces conducted a series of Shahed drone strikes on Ukraine on the night of November 25-26. Ukrainian military officials reported that Russian forces launched nine Shahed-136/131 from Primorsko-Akhtarsk direction and that Ukrainian air defenses shot down eight drones. Ukrainian Joint Forces Commander Lieutenant General Serhiy Nayev, like other Ukrainian officials on November 25, continued to praise the actions of Ukrainian mobile fire groups in intercepting Russian drones. Nayev stated that mobile fire groups will receive foreign-made man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) in the near future.

Iran Update, November 25, 2023

November 25, 2023 - ISW Press

Hamas released a second round of hostages after Hamas accused Israel of violating the humanitarian pause agreement and threatened to delay the hostages’ release.

CTP-ISW did not record verifiable reports of kinetic activity inside the Gaza Strip or reports of attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

CTP-ISW recorded nine small arms clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters in the West Bank.

Palestinian militias are trying to exert greater control over the Palestinian population in the West Bank to facilitate further militia operations against Israeli targets.

Israeli and Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) media suggested that LH conducted 2-3 attacks into northern Israel.

Iranian-backed Iraqi factions are trying to exploit the Israel-Hamas war to erode US military and political influence in Iraq.

Iran and its Axis of Resistance appear to be continuing to threaten Israeli-affiliated commercial shipping.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—did not claim any attacks against US forces in Iraq or Syria.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 25, 2023

November 25, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian forces launched the largest drone strike against Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion overnight on November 24 to 25 using a new modification of the Iranian Shahed 131/136 drones. Ukrainian military officials reported that Russian forces launched 75 Shahed drones that mainly targeted Kyiv City from the southeast (Primorsko-Akhtarsk) and northeast (Kursk Oblast) and that Ukrainian forces shot down 74 drones. Ukrainian military officials also reported that Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian Kh-59 cruise missile over Dnipropetrovsk Oblast and that air defenses activated in at least six regions, including Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, and Kirovohrad oblasts. Ukrainian Air Force officials stated that mobile fire groups enabled Ukrainian forces to shoot down a significant number of drones. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky observed that Russian forces launched the drone attack on the Ukrainian remembrance day of the 1932-1933 Holodomor man-made famine.

Iran Update, November 24, 2023

November 24, 2023 - ISW Press

The Israel–Hamas four-day humanitarian pause went into effect on November 24. Israeli forces and Hamas have not claimed attacks in the Gaza Strip in accordance with the pause. Israel and Hamas agreed to a prisoner/hostage swap but characterized it with different levels of detail on November 22. The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on November 24 that 24 hostages were freed from the Gaza Strip, including 13 Israeli citizens, 10 Thai citizens, and one Filipino citizen. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on November 22 that the deal allows Red Cross representatives to visit hostages in the Gaza Strip and deliver medicine. Qatar confirmed that Israel freed 39 Palestinians from prison in return during the first stage of the swap.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 24, 2023

November 24, 2023 - ISW Press

Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces began a renewed offensive effort towards Avdiivka on November 22, although likely with weaker mechanized capabilities than in the previous offensive waves that occurred in October. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Commander Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi reported on November 23 that Russian forces launched a “third wave” of assaults as part of the Russia offensive operation in the Avdiivka direction, and Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun stated that this “third wave” began on November 22. Shtupun reported a 25 to 30 percent increase in Russian ground attacks near Avdiivka on November 22 and stated that Ukrainian forces repelled several Russian columns of roughly a dozen armored vehicles in total during assaults. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled at least 50 Russian assaults in the Avdiivka direction on November 23 and 24. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces continued offensive operations on Avdiivka’s northern and southern flanks but did not characterize any Russian assaults as heavily mechanized.

Iran Update, November 22, 2023

November 22, 2023 - ISW Press

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a four-day humanitarian pause in fighting. Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk said the pause will begin at 0300 EST on Thursday, November 23. The Israeli National Security Director said that hostages will not be released before Friday, however.It is therefore unclear when the pause will begin. Statements from Israel and Hamas acknowledged a prisoner/hostage swap in return for a four-day pause in the fighting in the Gaza Strip with different levels of detail. The Israeli government’s official statement said that 50 women and children would be released by Hamas over four days at a rate of at least 10 per day. Hamas’ political wing issued a more detailed statement and said that it would release 50 Israeli women and children under the age of 19 in exchange for Israel releasing 150 Palestinian women and children under the age of 19. Israel’s statement presents the opportunity for the extension of the pause, stipulating that for each additional 10 hostages Hamas released, a day would be added to the pause. Hamas’ statement did not mention this aspect of the agreement.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 22, 2023

November 22, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin reframed the Kremlin’s stance on the Israeli-Hamas war to a much more anti-Israel position in an attempt to demonstrate the supposed hypocrisy of Western condemnations of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin stated that attendees of the G20 summit who expressed shock at the continued Russian war in Ukraine should instead be “shocked” by the “bloody” 2014 Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine and the subsequent war that the “Kyiv regime waged against its own people” in Donbas and by the “extermination of the civilian population in Palestine, in the Gaza sector.” Putin’s November 22 statement on the Israel-Hamas war referring to the “extermination of the civilian population of Palestine” was a departure from previous Kremlin framing that largely focused on calling for peace and claiming that the Israel-Hamas war will distract from the provision of Western military aid to Ukraine. Putin’s November 22 framing of the Israeli-Hamas war continues to exploit that war to undermine Western support for Ukraine, as ISW has previously assessed, and also signals potentially increasing support for Iranian interests in the region and an increased willingness to antagonize Israel.