U.S. Retaliates Against Iran-Backed Kataib Hezbollah In Iraq

U.S. Retaliates Against Iran-Backed Kataib Hezbollah In Iraq

Iraq 

U.S. Retaliates Against Iran-Backed Kataib Hezbollah In Iraq 

On November 21, a contingent from an Iran-backed militia launched a short-range ballistic missile at Ain Al-Asad airbase, injuring several U.S. service members. It was the first ballistic missile attack since Iran-backed militias on October 17 resumed and intensified their kinetic activities against U.S. military and diplomatic personnel in Iraq, after a lull in attacks beginning in April. Although short-range, the missile used in the attack has the capability to carry heavy warheads, meaning it is potentially more lethal than other weapons deployed against U.S. forces in the region since October 17.  

A U.S. Airforce AC-130 gunship in the area identified the origin of the missile launch and neutralized the terrorists as they were returning to their vehicle. Later in the day, the U.S. Airforce carried out strikes on Kataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq, including a command center near Jurf Al-Saqr, killing eight militants. These were the first two U.S. military strikes in Iraq since October 17, conducted without the approval of the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani, who is aligned with the ‘Coordination Framework,’ a coalition of political parties associated with Iran-backed militias.   

Israel and the Palestinian Territories 

Hamas Leader In Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, Makes First Public Statement Since October 7 

On November 30, the Gaza-based leader of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, declared that the October 7 terrorist attack was a “rehearsal.” The rhetoric closely resembles that of Iran’s regime leadership and comports with the group’s genocidal intentions that the state of Israel will eventually be destroyed. On the same day, top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Major General Hossein Salami similarly proclaimed that “If the engine of another operation like Al-Aqsa [Storm] is turned on, the time needed for the dissolution of the fake regime [Israel] will be only 48 hours so that…the regime will be totally wiped out.” He was speaking before an audience of the Basij, a radical volunteer youth paramilitary outfit under IRGC command. 

Temporary Pause In Hostilities In Gaza, Extended To Seven Days, Comes To End 

Hamas announced the death of four commanders, including the commander of the Northern Gaza Brigade, Abu Anas Al-Ghandour. It said the commanders were killed before the hostage agreement was reached on November 21. Ghandour was one of the most senior commanders to have been slain to date, along with Ayman Nofal, commander of the Central Brigade who was killed last month. The other commanders pronounced dead were: Aiman Siam, Wael Rajeb, and Rafet Salman. These and other deaths have impaired the terrorist group’s ability to conduct large-scale operations at the battalion or brigade level. 

On November 21, Israel and Hamas came to an agreement in which Hamas would release 50 hostages in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners during a four-day pause in fighting in the Gaza Strip to be accompanied by the delivery of aid trucks. The temporary ceasefire began on November 24 and was extended on November 27 and again on November 30 for an additional day to allow for more hostages to be freed. 

While the ceasefire was in effect, Hamas released 105 of the 240 hostages it took captive on October 7. Mostly women and children, the freed hostages have given harrowing accounts about how they were treated in captivity, describing scenes of physical violence and psychological torture. Some of the freed hostages described how they were beaten and threatened while in captivity. Notwithstanding these revelations, Hamas has portrayed its treatment of hostages as humane and in accordance with Islamic teachings. 

On the morning of December 1, talks to extend the temporary ceasefire broke down shortly before the ceasefire was set to expire at 7 AM. Both sides blamed the other for failing to uphold their side of the bargain, with Israel claiming that it intercepted a projectile fired from Gaza towards Israel. Two Israeli officials involved in the talks, speaking anonymously, said that the talks broke down because the two sides could not agree on additional hostage-for-prisoner exchanges. Israel resumed military operations in the enclave after the ceasefire expired. 

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), prior to the start of the ceasefire, had surrounded the northern Gaza city of Jabalya. The IDF is expected to enter the city now that the ceasefire has expired and begin expanding military operations into the south of Gaza, which is where large numbers of Hamas fighters, including key leadership, have fled to avoid kinetic action in the north of Gaza. They are currently hiding in densely-populated areas, using civilians in these areas as shields.

Israel’s Intelligence Services Prepare For Operations To Target Hamas Leadership Worldwide 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed Israel’s spy agencies to draw up plans to assassinate Hamas leaders located in countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, and Qatar. “I have instructed the Mossad to act against the heads of Hamas wherever they are,” Netanyahu said in a public address on November 22. Meanwhile, some Israeli officials are considering the benefits and risks of expelling low-level fighters in Hamas from Gaza. 

Israel Conducts Raids Targeting Palestinian Militants Located In The West Bank 

On November 26, Israeli forces conducted a raid in the city of Jenin in pursuit of several terrorist suspects that had been involved in a deadly ambush in the West Bank in August. At least one militant believed to be from the Jenin Brigades, a Palestinian terrorist group based in the West Bank, was neutralized in a firefight with Israeli forces. 

A separate raid was directed in Jenin on November 28. There were at least two Palestinian militant deaths and several civilian casualties on this occasion. According to the Israeli military, the Israeli troops fired upon suspects that hurled explosive devices at them. 

Two Hamas Gunmen Claim Three Lives In A Shooting On The Outskirts Of Jerusalem 

Hamas gunmen opened fire in Jerusalem and claimed the lives of at least three people while wounding six others. The Shin Bet reported that the two Palestinian gunmen—Murad Nimr and Ibrahim Nimr—were brothers from East Jerusalem, who had previously been imprisoned for terrorist activity. Hamas said that the brothers, who were killed by two off-duty soldiers and an armed civilian, had been members of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. 

Lebanon and Hezbollah 

Hezbollah Claims It Downed An Israeli Drone Using An Advanced Surface-To-Air Missile 

Throughout the temporary ceasefire, Hezbollah decreased the frequency of its cross-border attacks, but deployed an advanced Iran-made surface-to-air missile (SAM). Hezbollah published video footage purporting to show an Israeli drone being intercepted by a ‘loitering’ SAM. The IDF denied that Hezbollah had previously shot down a drone, and added that this incident was under investigation. The SAM, dubbed the Saqr 358, is known as a ‘loitering’ munition because, after the initial rocket booster burns out, a jet engine guides the missile in a crazy-eight flight pattern as it searches for targets in the area. 

Skirmishes At The Northern Front With Lebanon Intensify Immediately After Ceasefire Ends 

Hezbollah launched an attack on the morning of December 1, causing rocket sirens to go off and residents to run to shelters. The Lebanon-based terrorist group said “appropriate weapons” were used to target Israeli troops in the north of Israel. The IDF promptly retaliated against a terrorist cell in the Israeli border community of Zarit. Additional rockets were fired at IDF positions in Israel, and Israel fired artillery rounds at the rocket launch sites. 

Syria 

Rocket Fired At U.S. Military Installation Misses Its Target 

The first attack on U.S. forces in the region since November 23 occurred on November 29 at Mission Support Site Euphrates in eastern Syria. A rocket launched at the military facility missed its target and didn’t cause injuries or damage, bringing the total number of attacks against U.S. forces in the region since October 17 to 74. The U.S. has conducted retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed militants on four occasions in this time.