Five Days After Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Kills American Soldiers In Jordan, Still No U.S. Response 

Five Days After Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Kills American Soldiers In Jordan, Still No U.S. Response 


Five Days After Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Kills American Soldiers In Jordan, Still No U.S. Response 

The Pentagon at first suggested that Kataib Hezbollah (KH) was responsible for the drone attack on January 28 that killed three Americans at Tower 22, a remote outpost in Jordan likely used to provide support to U.S. counterterrorism missions in Syria. Two days later, KH announced it was suspending its military operations against the U.S., likely fearing a harsh U.S. response and intending to weaken U.S. resolve and frame itself as a victim of U.S. “aggression” if and when strikes happen. KH said it would suspend its operations to avoid the “embarrassment” of the Iraqi government, which permits the U.S. military presence.  

On January 31, the U.S. blamed the ‘Islamic Resistance in Iraq,’ an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias in Iraq which has been responsible for the lion’s share of attacks against the U.S. in Iraq and Syria, for the Tower 22 attack. KH is a member of the ‘Islamic Resistance in Iraq.’ 

Since October 17, 2023, the Iran-backed proxies have conducted nearly 170 attacks against the U.S. in Iraq and Syria, not to mention the Houthi missile and drone strikes on international shipping and the U.S. Navy in the southern Red Sea. To date, the U.S. has resisted striking Iranian targets, instead focusing its retaliations on the proxies, most often KH. The U.S. has conducted nine retaliatory strikes, three of which targeted KH. Of those nine strikes, the first three were in the Deir Ezzor province of Syria, and the latest six each occurred in Iraq.   

However, these strikes have evidently failed to deter KH, one of Iran’s most loyal and capable proxies. They also don’t deter other actors in the ‘Axis of Resistance.’ The only way to deter Iran’s proxies is by targeting assets that have strategic value to Tehran. U.S. officials told CBS News that the Biden administration approved plans to strike targets in Iraq and Syria, including Iranian personnel and facilities. The advanced warning, however, seems to have allowed IRGC personnel to empty out their locations in Iraq and Syria. As of today, several B1 heavy bombers are said to have departed from a base in the U.K. on a strike mission.  

Israel and the Palestinian Territories 

Hamas’ Remaining Stronghold, Rafah, To Be Focus Of Israeli Military Operations 

As Hamas and Israel review the terms of a potential hostage deal, Israel’s military is readying plans for the densely populated Rafah border crossing with Egypt, where Hamas elements are still believed to be present. Hamas fighters have likely fled to the area to shelter among the civilian population and ensure that if and when Israel does target Hamas in Rafah, there will be high collateral damage. Reports also indicate that the Rafah border crossing may currently be used for weapons smuggling into Gaza.  

According to the Qatari prime minister, who had met with the intelligence chiefs of the U.S., Egypt, and Israel in Paris, each of these parties broadly agreed to a framework in which Israel would halt military operations for six weeks and release some Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the phased release of hostages held by Hamas as well as the bodies of those who have died in Hamas captivity. There are currently 130 hostages in Hamas captivity.  

Hamas Operatives Employed By The United Nations Relief And Works Agency (UNRWA) 

Israel shared intelligence with the U.S., collected through signals intercepts, cellphone tracking, and interrogations, showing that over 1,200 of UNRWA’s 12,000 workers are linked to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and that around 12 of them were involved in the October 7 terrorist attack against Israel. In fact, six UNRWA employees participated in the assault itself. The intelligence underscores the lack of oversight applied to the organization, despite the U.S. being the lead donor in 2022, and also shows the difficulty of administering aid in a territory that is controlled by a terrorist organization.  

Hamas’ Tunnel System Shelters Hamas Leadership Beneath Civilian Areas 

Hamas’ tunnel infrastructure has been a major challenge to dismantling Hamas. The tunnels shelter leadership, likely near hostages, and are used to direct attacks, store weapons and ammunition, produce weapons, and operate throughout Gaza. While the Israeli military has deployed dogs, drones, and robots to map out the tunnels and has demolished significant sections of the 400 miles of tunnels via gel explosives and airstrikes, about 80 percent of the infrastructure remains intact. The other 20 percent is inoperable.  

Israeli Military Conducts Uncover Raid At A Hospital In The West Bank 

Israeli forces conducted a raid at a hospital in the West Bank. On January 30, a dozen armed commandos, dressed in civilian and hospital garb, stormed the Ibn Sina hospital and engaged in a targeted killing. The military said that one of the neutralized targets, Mohammed Jalamneh, was actively plotting an imminent attack and that the other two had been involved in attacks. Later Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) confirmed that members of their group had been killed in the raid.  

Lebanon and Hezbollah 

As Israel’s Patience Runs Thin, War With Hezbollah Looms 

Signaling its support for its fellow member of the ‘Axis of Resistance,’ Hezbollah has reportedly said that it will not agree to a ceasefire with Israel unless there is a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, and has also refused to move its forces behind the Litani River, as required by UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Cross-border fire occurs on a daily basis between the IDF and Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. Over 170 Hezbollah fighters, including senior members of the organization like Wissam Tawil, a commander in the elite Radwan Unit, have been killed. On January 27, the IDF carried out airstrikes in Lebanon that killed four Hezbollah members. However, these surgical strikes have yet to force Hezbollah to comply with Israel’s demands.  


Syrian Regime Media Reports A Strike At Hezbollah Stronghold Near Damascus 

On January 29, Syria claimed that Israel conducted a missile strike against targets in a suburb of Damascus, the capital, from the direction of the Golan Heights. At the same time, pro-regime media said that the Sayyida Zainab shrine area, a known IRGC and Hezbollah stronghold, was hit in the attacks. According to a local war monitor, several members of Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias were killed in the strikes. Later in the week, another presumed Israeli strike in Syria killed an IRGC advisor, Saeed Alidadi. Syria’s military said that the missiles were on the latter occasion also launched from the direction of the Golan Heights towards southern Damascus.  

IRGC Personnel Withdraw From Positions In Syria, Following Wave Of Strikes 

Since December 2023 alone, Israel has killed more than six IRGC personnel in strikes in Syria. One strike on January 20 took out five IRGC members, along with Sadegh Omidzadeh, the intelligence deputy of the IRGC's Quds Force. As a result of these strikes, IRGC personnel have been pulled back from their forward deployments, Reuters reported on February 1, 2024, the same day that news leaked about planned U.S. strikes against Iranian personnel in Iraq and Syria. The IRGC operatives reportedly became concerned that there had been a security breach, with Syrian authorities allegedly being compromised. Senior commanders and dozens of mid-ranking officers have, therefore, evacuated Syria. The report added that the IRGC is planning to more heavily rely on its Shia militia partners in Syria to uphold its interests in the country, most critically, its supply-line to Hezbollah.