Video Of Israeli Researcher Abducted By Iran-Backed Militia In Iraq Released

Video Of Israeli Researcher Abducted By Iran-Backed Militia In Iraq Released


Video Of Israeli Researcher Abducted By Iran-Backed Militia In Iraq Released 

Iran-backed Iraqi militants released a video of Israeli researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov speaking in Hebrew, the first confirmation since her abduction in March 2023 that she is alive. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has said she is being held captive by Kataib Hezbollah (KH), a fiercely loyal Iran-backed militia based in Iraq. Tsurkov’s sister said that Elizabeth’s purpose in Iraq was strictly academic, suggesting that Elizabeth’s purported admission on the recording to working with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Mossad was scripted and made under duress.  

The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned senior KH members in response to a series of rocket and drone attacks against U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria. The department determined that KH was responsible for some of the attacks, and noted that the group is “trained, funded, and supported by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force.” 

Israel and the Palestinian Territories 

As Rapid IDF Advance Continues In Gaza, Hamas Terrorists In Qatar Engage In Hostage Negotiations 

On November 13, Reuters reported Hamas’ armed wing, the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, discussed with Qatari mediators their interest in exchanging up to 70 women and children hostages, whom Hamas is holding captive in Gaza, for a five-day ceasefire. It was unclear whether Hamas dropped its previous demand that all Palestinian terrorists be released from Israeli prisons. However, a Hamas spokesperson was cited in the report as saying a prisoner swap was discussed last week. The group is probably trying to delay the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) offensive in Gaza in order to regroup and reestablish command-and-control. 

IDF Secures Key Sites In Gaza, Kills A Dozen Hamas Commanders 

On November 14, the IDF captured the Shati refugee camp west of Gaza City, after fierce fighting there. Hamas’ so-called “Security Square”—a collection of Hamas military bases in southwest Gaza City—the parliament, and other government buildings also fell to Israeli forces. A senior officer in the IDF said that the “Security Square” had become “a parking lot for tanks.” 

The next day, fighting between Hamas and the IDF intensified outside the Al-Shifa hospital complex. Once inside the hospital, the Israeli soldiers, trained for hospital operations, met with little resistance. The raid uncovered automatic weapons, grenades, ammunition, and flak jackets, and identified a hospital department that had been used for directing operations. The hospital’s military capabilities and operational functions currently remain under investigation by Israeli personnel. 

That night, Israeli fighter jets struck the home of Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ Qatar-based political bureau chief. The next day, the IDF took a port previously controlled by Hamas, which the terrorist group had used for training naval commandos to infiltrate Israel by sea. 

According to a Haaretz report, the IDF has neutralized half of the 24 known Hamas battalion commanders. Palestinian sources said that lines of communication to Ahmed Randur, the commander of Hamas’ northern brigade, were lost. If he is dead, he would be the second brigade commander killed in IDF operations in Gaza, after Ayman Nofal. 

Hamas’ top leadership, however, remains intact. Mohammed Deif, one of the masterminds of the October 7 terrorist attacks, leads Hamas’ armed wing and is believed to be hiding in tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip. The leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, is also thought to be holed up in the Gaza tunnels. 

Israeli Military Conducts Raid In The West Bank, As Fears Of Palestinian Escalation Grow 

In the West Bank, the Israeli military is focused on preventing escalation from armed militants, including Hamas members intent on opening a second front. On November 14, the IDF killed several Palestinian militants in the West Bank and arrested dozens on suspicion of terrorist activity; some of which were affiliated with Hamas. Israeli drone strike targeted militants who had opened fire and threw an explosive at Israeli security personnel in the area. 

On November 16, Hamas reportedly claimed responsibility for a shooting that occurred at a West Bank checkpoint south of Jerusalem, injuring six Israeli security forces, one fatally. Israeli security forces killed three gunmen in the exchange and discovered a cache of weapons, which suggested that the militants had intended to carry out a mass-casualty attack inside Israel. 

Evidence Points To Hamas’ Intention To Spark A Wider Conflagration On October 7 

The Washington Post reported, based on conversations with senior Middle East intelligence officials, that one Hamas assault team that attacked Israel on October 7 carried a map showing a route to the West Bank, indicating it may have intended to continue the assault to the West Bank in order to spark a violent uprising there or to advance on Israeli cities. The detailed mapping also suggests that the terrorist group had, prior to the assault, infiltrated Israeli airspace with reconnaissance drones. 

The report also noted that Iran-backed militias were allegedly involved in facilitating weapons transfers through Jordan for delivery to the West Bank. Jordan intercepted trucks and drones carrying small arms and explosives. It was unclear how many of the weapons reached the West Bank. An official who spoke to the Washington Post added that some transport drones were equipped with anti-jamming capabilities, making them more difficult to target.    

Supreme Leader Khamenei Reportedly Told Hamas Terror Chief, Ismail Haniyeh, That Iran Will Not Directly Intervene On Hamas’ Behalf In The War In Gaza 

According to Iranian and Hamas officials who spoke anonymously with Reuters about Haniyeh’s meeting with the supreme leader of Iran on November 4, Khamenei said to Haniyeh that Iran would not intervene but would continue to provide moral and diplomatic support. Khamenei, who likely had foreknowledge of the October 7 attack given the close coordination between the IRGC’s Quds Force and Hamas over one to two years of planning for the attack, denied that he had foreknowledge, according to the senior officials. These statements fit into Khamenei’s strategy of plausible deniability to avoid reprisals. Meanwhile, IRGC Quds Force commander, Brigadier General Ismail Qaani, declared that “the ‘Axis of Resistance’ stands with you [Hamas].” 

Documents Suggest Iran Offered Technical Training To Hamas Militants In Months Leading Up To the October 7 Hamas Terrorist Attacks 

Israel obtained documents from a Hamas pickup truck outside Gaza. According to CNN, which saw the documents and spoke with an Israeli official about them, a Hamas commander had written a letter to Iran requesting scholarships to study engineering, physics, and technology in Iran. While current and former U.S. officials said the training program was a well-known soft-power initiative used by Tehran, the Israeli official, speaking anonymously, noted that Iran had offered training on how to assemble explosives through the university program; and that the IRGC likely took the lead on these programs. Israeli officials have confirmed the authenticity of the document, adding that it was the first known instance of Iran’s efforts to fund the group’s technical training at the university level. 

Lebanon and Hezbollah 

Fighting Along Israel’s Northern Border With Lebanon Intensifies

On November 11, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah delivered his second public speech since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel precipitated the war in Gaza. Aiming to project confidence with regard to Hezbollah’s activities on the northern front with Israel, he bragged there has been "a quantitative improvement in the number of operations, the size and the number of targets, as well as an increase in the type of weapons." Nasrallah wishes to signal that he is not abandoning Hamas, while at the same time limiting escalation vis-à-vis Israel to avoid severe reprisals. Moreover, if and when Hamas nears battlefield defeat, Nasrallah may pursue additional escalation, especially if directed by the Islamic Republic. 

Skirmishes along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon intensified on November 16, with Hezbollah claiming it hit eight Israeli targets. Israel responded with artillery shelling of Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon and carried out drone strikes. Lebanese security personnel reported it was one of the most violent exchanges since fighting broke out following Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack. Israel’s reported escalation on the northern front could signal that the IDF intends to take a more aggressive posture toward Hezbollah.


U.S. Airstrikes Target IRGC-linked Assets in Eastern Syria 

U.S. warplanes struck IRGC-linked targets in eastern Syria on November 13, the third such strike since IRGC-backed militias rapidly escalated their attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria since October 7. U.S. Air Force fighter jets struck training, logistics, and storage facilities in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin, which the militias have used to direct operations. Despite suffering several casualties, the militias continued launching rocket and drone attacks on facilities where U.S. personnel are stationed. 

On November 14, the Pentagon confirmed that 59 U.S. personnel have been injured in 56 attacks since October 17. Despite this, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh insisted that deterrence in the Middle East is working. 

Meanwhile, on November 16, Israeli airstrikes destroyed a Hezbollah arms depot in Damascus, and targeted several other sites linked to Hezbollah and pro-Iran groups. Two pro-Iran fighters were killed in the strikes.