Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 5, 2023

November 5, 2023 - ISW Press

Ukrainian forces conducted a successful strike on a Russian shipyard in Kerch, occupied Crimea on November 4, likely damaging a naval vessel. The Ukrainian Amed Forces Center for Strategic Communications (StratCom) stated that Ukrainian forces conducted successful strikes on Russian marine and port infrastructure at the Zalyv Shipyard in Kerch on the evening of November 4. Satellite imagery from November 4 shows that the strike damaged a Project 22800 Karakurt-class Kalibr missile carrier corvette at the shipyard, although the extent of the damage to the ship is currently unclear. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces intercepted 13 of 15 Ukrainian missiles targeting the shipyard and acknowledged that two missiles damaged an unspecified ship.[3] Ukrainian officials stated that Ukrainian cruise missiles damaged the Askold missile carrier, a Karakurt-class corvette that the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) launched in 2021. The Zalyv shipyard reportedly planned to construct 14 warships intended for the BSF between 2016 and 2021, including eight Project 22800 Karakurt-class corvettes. ISW has only confirmed that three Project 228000 Karakurt-class corvettes have launched from the Zalyv shipyard as of 2023, however. The Zalyv shipyard is the largest shipyard in Eastern Europe and is likely the main repair facility for the BSF in Crimea following a successful Ukraine strike on the Russian state-owned ship repair facility Sevmorzavod in Sevastopol on September 13, 2023. The extent of damage to the repair facilities at the Zalyv Shipyard is unclear, although the available satellite imagery suggests that the Ukrainian strike has likely not caused damage that will disrupt its operations in the medium-to-long term, unlike the previous strike on the Sevmorzavod facility. Radio Free Europe/Free Liberty (RFE/RL) has reported that Russian forces have three active shipyards, including the Zalyv facility, in occupied Crimea. ISW assesses that Ukrainian forces have conducted an interdiction campaign against Russian military infrastructure in occupied Crimea, primarily BSF assets, since June 2023 to degrade the Russian military's ability to use Crimea as a staging and rear area for Russian operations in southern Ukraine.

Iran Update, November 4, 2023

November 4, 2023 - ISW Press

Captured Hamas plans suggest that Hamas has not heavily committed to defending parts of the northern outskirts of Gaza City, which may indicate that Hamas units in parts of that area are screening for a main defensive effort in central Gaza City. The IDF captured and published a Hamas map apparently showing a Hamas company’s area of responsibility between al Toam and Falouja roads west of Jabaliya during a raid on a Hamas intelligence headquarters in Jabaliya. The sector is roughly half a kilometer deep and 1.5 kilometers across, which is a large sector for a company-sized unit defending against a mechanized advance in an urban area, depending on how Hamas tactical units are structured. Most of the area is not heavily built up, however, and Hamas commanders may simply have chosen not to focus on it. Palestinian militant attacks behind the Israeli forward line of advance are probably another supporting effort intended to harass and disrupt Israeli forces, rather than defeat them.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 4, 2023

November 4, 2023 - ISW Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized that the war in Ukraine is not a “stalemate” in a comment to the media about Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi’s essay on the positional nature of warfare in Ukraine. Zelensky stated during a joint press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on November 4 that the current situation on the frontlines is “not a stalemate” even if “time has passed” and “people are tired.” Zelensky emphasized that Ukraine prioritizes the safety of its servicemen and needs US F-16 fighter aircraft and air defenses to gain an advantage over Russian forces. Zelensky recalled that many observers were quick to call the battlefield situation in 2022 “a stalemate,” but that Ukrainian forces with several “tricks, tactics, [and] military operations” were able to liberate Kharkiv Oblast and west (right) bank Kherson Oblast. Zelensky added that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop at Russia’s currently occupied lines and noted that Ukraine “has no right to even think about giving up.” Zelensky’s statements largely mirror the main arguments in Zaluzhnyi’s essay entitled, “Modern Positional Warfare and How to Win It.”

Iran Update, November 3, 2023

November 3, 2023 - ISW Press

Palestinian militias targeted IDF ground forces with small arms, anti-tank fire, and indirect fire in the northern Gaza Strip. IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said that the IDF is encircling Gaza City from the air land, and sea. Fighting continued behind the Israeli forward line of advance in the central Gaza Strip, however. The al Qassem Brigades—the militant wing of Hamas—claimed responsibility for attacking IDF forces in the northwest, northeast, and south of Gaza City. The al Qassem Brigades used anti-tank munitions and their intricate network of tunnels underneath the Gaza Strip to ambush IDF forces. They also used rockets and mortars to attack IDF vehicles and infantry near the Erez military checkpoint on the northern border. The al Quds Brigades—the militant wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—claimed to fire artillery at advancing IDF vehicles along the coast.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 3, 2023

November 3, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian forces conducted a notably larger series of drone strikes throughout Ukraine on November 3. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that Russian forces launched four dozen Shahed-131/-136 drones from Kursk Oblast and Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Krasnodar Krai, and a Kh-59 cruise missile from occupied Kherson Oblast at targets in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that Ukrainian air defenses shot down the Kh-59 cruise missile and 24 of the Shahed drones. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Ukrainian forces intercepted over half of the roughly 40 drones that Russian forces launched at Ukraine. Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces struck targets in Kharkiv, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Odesa oblasts, and Zelensky stated that Ukrainian air defenses activated in Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytskyi, and Lviv oblasts.

Iran Update, November 2, 2023

November 2, 2023 - ISW Press

Iranian-backed militants, including Lebanese Hezbollah (LH), conducted 28 attacks into northern Israel on November 2, which is the largest offensive on this front since the Israel-Hamas War began. LH fired one-way attack drones for the first time at the IDF Zebdin barracks in the contested Shebaa Farms area. LH has primarily relied on anti-tank squads to attack IDF positions up until this point. LH claimed to simultaneously attack 19 IDF positions along the Lebanon-Israel border. This uptick in attacks precedes LH Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s planned speech on November 3, during which he may announce further escalation against Israel. LH declared on October 8 that it is not a neutral party in the conflict but has nevertheless sustained daily attacks into northern Israel since the war began.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 2, 2023

November 2, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted a missile strike on the Russian “Dnepr” Grouping of Forces headquarters in Kherson Oblast on November 1. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces launched Storm Shadow cruise missiles and Neptune anti-ship missiles targeting Strilkove, Kherson Oblast, on the Arabat Spit and that Russian air defenses only intercepted half of the missiles. Multiple Russian sources claimed that Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, the recently named commander of the Russian “Dnepr” Grouping of Forces operating in the Kherson direction, was uninjured. Russian opposition media outlet Astra reported that four Ukrainian missiles struck the “Aura” recreation center near Strilkove that served as the Russian Dnepr Grouping’s headquarters.

Salafi-Jihadi Movement Weekly Update, November 2, 2023

November 2, 2023 - ISW Press

Key Takeaways:

Mali. The Malian junta is hindering the ongoing UN withdrawal, which is making it easier for al Qaeda and Islamic State–affiliated militants to attack UN peacekeepers.

Somalia. Clan infighting in central Somalia will likely hinder the Somali Federal Government’s (SFG) plans to remove al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab from central Somalia and pose an enduring risk to stability in central Somalia.

China-Taiwan Weekly Update, November 2, 2023

November 2, 2023 - ISW Press

The PRC is shaping the information environment to blame the United States for potential future geopolitical incidents in the South China Sea. The PRC state-controlled China Global Television Network (CGTN) aired an October 29 interview with Lieutenant General He Lei accusing the United States of arrogantly interfering in the Sino-Philippines territorial disputes in the South China Sea. This echoes PRC MFA spokeswoman Mao Ning’s condemnation of United States “interference” in the South China Sea amidst Sino-Philippines territorial disputes. Her comments occurred after the PRC Coast Guard rammed Philippine ships near the Second Thomas Shoal on October 22. This PRC aggression extends to a growing trend of People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes dangerously operating near United States aircraft in the East and South China Sea since 2021, according to images declassified by the United States Department of Defense. The China Military Power Report stated the United States has documented in excess of 180 such instances since 2021. The CCP inaccurately placing blame on the United States for interfering in the South China Sea indicates that the party’s false rhetoric aims to provide cover for coercive People’s Liberation Army military activity. This activity aims to degrade the American-led security architecture.

Iran Update, November 1, 2023

November 1, 2023 - ISW Press

Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) are continuing to promote the expectation in the information space that LH will announce some kind of escalation against Israel on November 3. CTP-ISW previously reported that LH has released two dramatic videos in recent days ahead of LH Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s planned speech on November 3, creating the expectation of a significant announcement on the Israel-Hamas war. This speech is significant in that it will be Nasrallah’s first public statement on the war. Iranian state media has further amplified the news of the upcoming speech and the dramatic videos, describing them as a “sign of future events.”