September 28, 2022

Iran Updates

The Iran Update aims to inform national security policy by providing timely, relevant, and independent open-source analysis of developments pertaining to Iran and its Axis of Resistance. This update covers political, military, and economic events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. It also provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. The American Enterprise Institute's Critical Threats Project (CTP) and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provide these updates weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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Maps

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) with support from the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute launched a new interactive map of Iran and the Middle East. The map depicts events in Iran that affect the stability of the Iranian regime, namely anti-regime protests and reported poisoning incidents. It also shows developments in Syria that jeopardize regional stability and pose threats to US forces and interests, including Iranian and Iranian-backed militia positions. ISW created each of these data layer events in accordance with ISW’s research methodology. Learn more about the map here.      

 

Previous versions of static maps are available in our past publications.

Recent Iran Updates

Iran Update, April 13, 2024

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force launched a large-scale drone and missile attack from Iranian territory that targeted Israel from Iranian territory on April 13.[i] This marks the first time Iran has targeted Israel directly from Iranian territory.[ii] Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari confirmed that Iran launched drones and then missiles from Iranian territory towards Israel.[iii] The IRGC announced the start of operation “True Promise” at approximately 15:30 EST on April 13.[iv] The Iranian Supreme National Security Council approved the attack and the IRGC Aerospace Force conducted the attack under the supervision of the Armed Forces General Staff. The IRGC launched hundreds of drones towards Israel, including Shahed-136 one-way attack drones.[v] The attack included at least three attack waves over the course of several hours.[vi] Israeli media reported that the IRGC launched its operation from Kermanshah city, Kermanshah Province, and Dokuh, Hormozgan Province, in western Iran.[vii]

The United States, United Kingdom, Israel and Jordan began intercepting drones and missiles outside of Israeli airspace between 1700 and 1800 ET, according to Israeli media and several unspecified sources speaking to Israeli media.[viii] IDF spokesperson Hagari said in a press briefing that Iran launched over 200 drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.[ix] Flight radar reported that the airspace over Iran, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon is closed.[x]  The Iranian Permanent Mission to the United Nations posted on X (Twitter) that the operation was launched in response to the April 1 Israeli airstrike targeting IRGC officials in Damascus. The Iranian Permanent Mission wrote that the Iranian ”True Promise” operation ”can be deemed concluded” at 1800 ET.[xi]

Members of Iran’s so-called “Axis of Resistance” appear to have conducted attacks targeting Israel simultaneously with Iran’s first wave of attacks. Lebanese Hezbollah claimed it fired ”dozens” of Katyusha rockets targeting an Israeli missile and artillery base in the Golan Heights at 1800 ET.[xii] The Houthis posted two promotional videos about destroying Israel during Iran’s wave of drone attacks, but has not claimed any attack at the time of writing.[xiii] The Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Faylaq al Waad al Sadiq (True Promise Corps) congratulated the Islamic Resistance in Iraq on April 13 for participating in the attack targeting Israel.[xiv] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has not claimed an attack at the time of writing. The Iranian-backed Badr Organization posted a graphic celebrating Iran’s attack on Israel stating that “we are among the criminals taking revenge” suggesting that the militia may have supported the attack on Israel in an unspecified capacity.[xv]

The Israeli war cabinet convened on April 13 in Tel Aviv and remains in session.[xvi] Israel immediately took certain preventative measures after the first wave of drones were launched. Israel closed its airspace.[xvii] The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) evacuated several bases, deployed aircraft, and raised air defense readiness.[xviii] The IDF instructed residents along its northern border in the Golan Heights, Eilat, Dimona, and Nevatim (Negev region) to remain close to shelters.[xix]

Iran warned Israel’s partners, particularly the United States and Jordan, not to intervene in Iran’s attack against Israel. Supreme National Security Council-affiliated media warned the United States against intervening in Iran’s attack, claiming that Iran has prepared ballistic missile platforms to target “several US bases in the region.”[xx] The Iranian Permanent Mission to the UN similarly warned the United States to “stay away” from the conflict between Iran and Israel.[xxi] The United States and the United Kingdom have intercepted over 100 drones outside of Israeli airspace at the time of this writing.[xxii] IRGC-affiliated media separately warned Jordan that it will be Iran’s “next target” if it participates in an Israeli response to Iran’s attack.[xxiii] Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani warned that Iran will give a “decisive response” to any country that allows Israel to use its airspace or territory to conduct a counterattack against Iran.[xxiv] Israeli media reported that Jordanian aircraft shot down Iranian drones headed toward Israel over northern and central Jordan.[xxv]

The composition of the ongoing Iranian attack on Israel is similar to the composition of Russian strikes have repeatedly targeted Ukraine. These Russian strikes have attempted to determine the optimal package to penetrate Western air and missile defenses. Russia has experimented with combinations of ballistic and cruise missiles alongside Iranian drones in Ukraine.[xxvi] Iran’s use of drones and missiles shows how Iran is learning from the Russians to develop increasingly dangerous and effective strike packages against Israel. Iran has also used the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea to refine Iranian drone tactics by testing US Navy air defenses.[xxvii] The ongoing Iranian attacks targeting provide Iran opportunities to evaluate the effectiveness of different strike packages to understand how they can evade and overwhelm US air and maritime defenses more effectively.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy seized a Portuguese-flagged, Israeli-linked commercial vessel in the Strait of Hormuz on April 13, likely as part of its campaign to impose an unofficial blockade on Israel.[xxviii] IRGC-controlled media published a video of IRGC Navy forces repelling from a helicopter onto the MSC Aries.[xxix] The Zodiac Maritime, a shipping company owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, owns the MSC Aries and chartered the vessel to the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC).[xxx] The MSC confirmed that the MSC Aries, which was en route from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to India, was “boarded by Iranian authorities” and “diverted from her itinerary towards Iran.”[xxxi] IRGC-controlled media emphasized that the seizure of the MSC Aries “has nothing to do with Iran’s retaliatory measure” against Israel for the April 1 Israeli airstrike that killed seven IRGC officials in Damascus.[xxxii]

The IRGC Navy’s seizure of the MSC Aries comes amid increased Iranian threats to the UAE. IRGC Navy Commander Rear Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri recently claimed that Israel’s presence in the UAE threatens Iran and reiterated the long-standing Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz during an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-controlled media on April 9.[xxxiii] Israel has increasingly relied on an overland trade route that connects Haifa to Dubai via Jordan and Saudi Arabia to compensate for reduced trade activity at the Port of Eilat due to the Houthis’ anti-shipping campaign.[xxxiv] Tehran and its regional allies have threatened to disrupt the Israeli ground connection to the Persian Gulf. Iranian state media and Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have criticized the UAE for allowing Israel to conduct trade through its territory.[xxxv] Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have specifically called for the dismantlement of Israel’s “land bridge” through Jordan.[xxxvi] The IRGC Navy may have specifically targeted the Aries MSC to increase pressure on the UAE to sever economic ties with Israel.

Key Takeaways:

Iran: Iran launched a large-scale drone and missile attack from Iranian territory that targeted Israel from Iranian territory.

The IRGC Navy seized a Portuguese-flagged, Israeli-linked commercial vessel in the Strait of Hormuz, likely as part of its campaign to impose an unofficial blockade on Israel

Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike targeting Palestinian fighters in Beit Hanoun.

West Bank: The IDF announced that it found the body of the missing 14-year-old Israeli boy in the West Bank near Malachi HaShalom. Israeli media is widely reporting that Israeli settlers committed acts of violence in at least eight Palestinian towns in the northern West Bank after the IDF found the missing boy’s body.

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least 12 attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.

Iran Update, April 12, 2024

The Islamic Resistance in Iraqan umbrella organization of Iranian-backed Iraqi militiasthreatened on April 12 to renew its attack campaign targeting US forces in Iraq.[i] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq rejected any bilateral agreement between the United States and Iraq that permits US forces to remain in Iraq. The group threatened to ”torment [the United States] with fire” if US forces are not removed from Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani will meet with US President Joe Biden in Washington, DC, on April 15 to discuss the trajectory of US-Iraqi relations under the Strategic Framework Agreement.[ii] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq’s threat follows Sudani’s article in Foreign Affairs on April 11 in which he articulated his intent to expand US and Iraq cooperation beyond security and military affairs to include economic, agricultural, industrial, technological, and energy cooperation.[iii] Sudani’s articulated policy is currently at odds with the demands set by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which include the full withdrawal of US forces.

CTP-ISW previously warned that some Iranian-backed Iraqi militias may regard Sudani’s visit to Washington as a decisive moment and could decide to resume attacks targeting US forces if the visit does not result in tangible steps toward removing US forces from Iraq.[iv] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has paused attacks targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria since February 2024, when the United States killed a senior Kataib Hezbollah commander in Baghdad.[v] The pause in attacks coincided with the start of negotiations between Washington and Baghdad over the status of the US-led international coalition in Iraq.[vi] Asaib Ahl al Haq Secretary General Qais Khazali suggested on April 10 that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias could resume attacking US forces if Sudani’s upcoming visit to Washington, DC fails to force the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.[vii]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—an umbrella organization of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias— threatened to renew its attack campaign targeting US forces in Iraq.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF killed multiple Hamas’ personnel affiliated with Hamas’ governance structures and military organizations in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • The IDF continued an operation on the outskirts of Nuseirat along Wadi Gaza.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces killed senior Hamas commander Muhammad Omar Daraghmeh in Tubas on April 12.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iran: US CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael Kurilla continued to meet with Israeli officials in Israel to discuss preparations for a possible Iranian attack targeting Israel.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM intercepted a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile over the Red Sea.

Iran Update, April 11, 2024

Iran appears to be exploiting the uncertainty surrounding its reported “imminent” attack against Israel to stoke psychological terror in Israel. Western media reported on April 10 that Iran could launch drone and missile strikes into Israel imminently in retaliation for the IDF recently killing several senior IRGC officers in Damascus.[i] Iranian state media posted on X (Twitter) later on April 10 that the Iranian defense minister announced the closure of the airspace around Tehran for a military exercise.[ii] Iranian regime-affiliated channels then began circulating posts suggesting that an Iranian attack into Israel would soon occur.[iii] The coincidence of these posts led to extensive public speculation that Iran would launch an attack into Israel while the airspace around Tehran was closed. Iranian state media shortly thereafter retracted the claims of Iranian airspace being closed and denied that the Iranian defense minister made any related announcement.[iv] The publication and retraction of these reports is bizarre, especially given that the Iranian defense minister should have no role in the maintenance of Iranian airspace. Iranian military and political officials have boasted in recent days that the impending nature of their attack is itself damaging to Israel, suggesting that the media reports may have been part of a sophisticated information operation.[v] Stoking terror in Israel is consistent with CTP-ISW’s previous observation that Iranian leaders want the Israel-Hamas war to catalyze migration away from Israel and thereby erode the long-term viability of the Jewish state.[vi]

The present nature of the information space makes it difficult to forecast when precisely Iran might launch a retaliatory strike into Israel if at all. Western estimations of when Iran will conduct an attack have varied and could be subject to change. The likelihood that Iran is spreading disinformation surrounding its strike exacerbates the issue further.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant clarified on April 10 that Israel’s war aim in the Gaza Strip is to prevent Hamas from conducting another October 7-style attack into Israel again.[vii] Gallant said that preventing another October 7-style attack is what Israeli leaders mean when saying that they seek to destroy Hamas as a military organization. Gallant added that the IDF has already destroyed four of Hamas’ five brigades and that Israeli forces are currently contending with “hotspots” of militia activity across the Gaza Strip.[viii] The remaining brigade that Israeli leaders say that they have not yet destroyed is in Rafah.

Israeli operations have likely degraded Hamas in the Gaza Strip severely, rendering Hamas unable to restore its military wing to pre-October 7 levels in the short term. Gallant described Hamas’ military force as comparable to an “organized commando division” prior to the war. Israel has since then destroyed a large quantity of Hamas’ military infrastructure and weapons as well as killed thousands of fighters in the Gaza Strip thus far. Hamas fighters are currently operating as small squad- and platoon-sized cells instead of the well-organized structure they had prior to the war. Hamas will thus require extensive resources and time to rebuild their military force.

Hamas remains determined to reconstitute itself militarily and reassert its authority in the Gaza Strip, however. Hamas is already trying to coopt and undermine possible alternatives to its rule, which is evident by the reported Hamas attack targeting a head of a local clan in March 2024.[ix] Hamas is also attempting to facilitate trade and rehabilitate local police in the northern Gaza Strip, which are parts of Hamas’ larger effort to restore control over the civilian population.[x] Gallant acknowledged that Israel must empower a local alternative to Hamas in a post-war scenario.[xi]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Iran appears to be exploiting the uncertainty surrounding its reported “imminent” attack against Israel to stoke psychological terror in Israel.
  • Gaza Strip: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant clarified that Israel’s war aim in the Gaza Strip is to prevent Hamas from conducting another October 7-style attack into Israel again.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in Tulkarm in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least three attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani wrote an article for Foreign Affairs reiterating his intention to end the US-led international coalition’s presence in Iraq and transition to a “comprehensive” bilateral relationship with the United States.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM confirmed that it intercepted three Houthi drones over the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.

Iran Update, April 10, 2024

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Bloomberg reported that Iran or its proxies may conduct missile or drone strikes targeting military and government facilities in Israel in the coming days in response to the April 1 Israeli airstrike that killed seven IRGC officials in Damascus.
  • Iran and its Axis of Resistance have been engaged in a coordinated campaign to economically isolate Israel by encouraging Muslim nations to sever economic relations with Israel throughout the Israel-Hamas War.
  • Iraq: Asaib Ahl al Haq Secretary General Qais al Khazali hinted that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias could resume attacking US forces if Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani’s upcoming visit to Washington, DC, fails to facilitate the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike that killed three sons of Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Political Negotiations: Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh said that Israel would not get more concessions in the negotiations from Hamas after an IDF strike in the Gaza Strip killed three of his children.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in Tulkarm in the West Bank during Israeli operations there.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least two attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Syria: The IDF said that it struck a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) site that was operated by Lebanese Hezbollah in southern Syria.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM reported that it intercepted a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile in the Gulf of Aden. CENTCOM assessed that the Houthi attack was likely targeting the US-flagged and owned commercial vessel the MV Yorktown.

Iran Update, April 9, 2024

IRGC Navy Commander Rear Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri implicitly threatened the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-controlled media on April 9, likely to pressure the UAE to sever ties with Israel.[i] Tangsiri issued a series of threatening messages, all of which appear aimed at the UAE, during the interview. Tangsiri reiterated the long-standing Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz and furthermore suggested that Israel is cooperating with the UAE against Iran. Tangsiri claimed that Israel is present in the UAE under the pretext of “economic work” but actually engages in security and military activities there that threaten Iran.[ii] Tangsiri’s decision to conduct the interview with an Arabic-language outlet further suggests that he intended to message to an Arabic-speaking audience.

Tangsiri’s comments are part of a larger Iranian effort to impose an unofficial blockade on Israel. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has urged regional states to cut trade ties with Israel and institute a blockade in response to the Israel-Hamas war. The Houthis have conducted over 40 attacks targeting commercial vessels in the Red Sea since November 2023, as part of this Iranian-led call effort, causing maritime traffic through the Red Sea to decline by approximately 50 percent since January 2024.[iii] Israel has increasingly relied on overland trade with the Gulf States in recent months to compensate for reduced trade activity at the Port of Eilat due to the Houthis’ anti-shipping campaign.[iv] Tehran and its regional allies have focused in more recent weeks on disrupting the Israeli ground connection to the Arabian Peninsula. Iranian state media and Iranian-backed Iraqi militias recently criticized the UAE for allowing Israel to conduct trade through its territory.[v] Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have, moreover, called for the dismantlement of Israel’s “land bridge” through Jordan, as CTP-ISW previously noted.[vi]

Tangsiri separately endorsed the strategy of “strategic patience” in response to the April 1 Israeli airstrike that killed seven IRGC officials in Damascus. “Strategic patience” is a long-standing Iranian regime policy that involves not immediately conducting a major response to Israeli attacks. Tangsiri claimed that Iran will “strike [Israel] hard at the right time,” but emphasized that Iran will not act “emotionally” or “hastily.”[vii] Tangsiri added that “it is not the case that [Iran] will not give a response.”[viii] Numerous senior Iranian military officials, including Armed Forces General Staff Chief Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri and Supreme Leader Military Affairs Adviser Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, have similarly stated in recent days that Iran will respond to the April 1 airstrike “at the right time.”[ix]

US, Israeli, and Iranian officials told the New York Times that Iran is operating a smuggling network through Jordan to arm Palestinian fighters in the West Bank.[x] The Iranian officials described this effort as meant to ”foment unrest against Israel.” They added that Tehran is not trying to arm any particular Palestinian militias and is using Bedouin smuggling networks in Jordan and Iranian-backed militias in Syria to facilitate the transfer of materiel into the West Bank. US and Israeli officials said that the Iranian-backed networks are specifically involved in moving small arms, anti-tank missiles, and rocket-propelled grenades. Iran’s smuggling network in Jordan could enable already motivated militias in the West Bank to attack Israeli targets.

The Iranian effort to build its capabilities and networks in the West Bank is part of a larger effort to encircle Israel militarily. IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami presented in August 2022 the clearest articulation yet from an Iranian official on how they plan to destroy Israel, and he placed special emphasis on growing anti-Israel militancy around the West Bank.[xi] Afshon Ostovar, a well-known analyst on Iran, suggested to the New York Times that Iran may be focusing on arming the West Bank because it anticipates having more limited access to militias in the Gaza Strip in the future.[xii] Tehran has sought to develop the capabilities and infrastructure of its militia network in the West Bank in recent years, but the Israel-Hamas war has highlighted the shortcomings of its networks there.[xiii]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: IRGC Navy Commander Rear Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri implicitly threatened the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-controlled media, likely to pressure the UAE to sever ties with Israel.
  • Tangsiri separately endorsed the strategy of “strategic patience” in response to the April 1 Israeli airstrike that killed seven IRGC officials in Damascus.
  • West Bank: US, Israeli, and Iranian officials told the New York Times that Iran is operating a smuggling network through Jordan to arm Palestinian fighters in the West Bank.
  • The Iranian effort to build its capabilities and networks in the West Bank is part of a larger effort to encircle Israel militarily.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias conducted several indirect fire attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Central Gaza Strip: The IDF Air Force killed the Maghazi mayor, whom Israel says was a member in Hamas’ military wing in the central Gaza Strip.
  • Political Negotiations: Hamas said on April 8 that the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal does not meet its demands.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Syria: The IDF and local Syrian sources reported that unspecified Iranian-backed militants launched a rocket from Syria targeting the Yonatan region of the Golan Heights.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it conducted five attacks into Israel using “appropriate weapons” over the previous 72 hours.
  • Iran: Jaish al Adl—a Baloch, Salafi-jihadi militia group—conducted an attack killing at least five Iranian Law Enforcement Command (LEC) officers in Sib and Soran county, Sistan and Baluchistan Province.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM reported that it targeted Houthi air defense systems in Houthi-controlled Yemen. CENTCOM separately intercepted a Houthi drone over the Red Sea.

Iran Update, April 8, 2024

Senior Iranian military officials have continued to suggest that they will carefully calibrate Iran’s response to Israel's killing of senior IRGC commanders in Syria. This careful approach aims to avoid a direct war with Israel. Iranian Armed Forces Chief of the General Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri said on April 6 that Iran will strike Israel “at the right time” during a commemoration ceremony for the IRGC officers killed in the likely Israeli airstrike on April 1[i] The Military Affairs Adviser to the Iranian Supreme Leader Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi separately said during a similar commemoration ceremony on April 7 that Iran “must wait for the right time” to deliver its response.[ii]  Several senior Iranian clerics close to the Office of the Supreme Leader endorsed “strategic patience”—a long-standing regime policy that involves not immediately conducting a major response to Israeli attacks—in their weekly sermons on April 5.[iii] Such comments support CTP-ISW's assessment that Iran seeks to avoid a direct military confrontation against the United States and Israel. Strategic patience does not exclude an eventual Iranian retaliation, however.[iv]

Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on April 8 warned that Iran will retaliate for the April 1 Israeli airstrike, illustrating the possibility of an eventual response to the attack.[v] Nasrallah’s made these comments during a Hezbollah ceremony for IRGC commander Mohammed Reza Zahedi in Beirut. Nasrallah said that Iran has a ”natural right” to retaliate against the airstrike because it represented ”an attack on Iranian territory.”[vi] Nasrallah added that the United States and Israel recognize that an Iranian response to the attack is ”inevitably coming.”[vii] Zahedi spearheaded Iranian engagement with Hezbollah and most recently commanded the IRGC Quds Force unit responsible for overseeing operations in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the Palestinian Territories.[viii] Zahedi was the only non-Lebanese member of Hezbollah’s Shura Council, which is led by Nasrallah and serves as the groups’ central decision-making authority.[ix]

Arabic-language media outlet Jadeh Iran reported on April 7 and 8 that Iran has conditioned its potential response to the April 1 Israeli strike on a ceasefire in Gaza. Arabic-language outlet Jadeh Iran reported on April 7 and 8 that Iran informed the United States that it would not retaliate against Israel for the April 1 strike if the United States could secure a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, citing “an anonymous Arab diplomatic source.[x] Jadeh Iran is an outlet founded by an al Jazeera journalist. An Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry official told Kuwait-based newspaper Al Jarida on April 8 that the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry told the United States that Iran would not respond to the April 1 Israeli airstrike if there was ”a ceasefire in Gaza.”[xi] The US State Department spokesperson denied these reports on April 8.[xii] The Jadeh Iran reporting coincides with claims from Western media and Israeli officials that Israel and Hamas negotiators had made ”significant progress” in negotiations or reached a “critical point“ during on going negotiations in Cairo.[xiii]

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian is engaging in political coordination with Iranian partners and Oman following the April 1 Israeli airstrike that targeted Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officials in Damascus. Abdollahian traveled to Muscat, Oman, on April 7 to meet with his Omani counterpart, Sayyid Badr al Busaidi, and chief Houthi negotiator and senior official Mohammad Abdul Salam.[xiv] An “anonymous Arab diplomatic source” telling Arabic-language outlet Jadeh Iran on April 7 that Iran would refrain from retaliating against Israel for the April 1 airstrike if Israel and Hamas reach a ceasefire.[xv] It is not clear whether the diplomatic source told Jadeh Iran about this Iranian position before or after Abdollahian’s meeting with Busaidi. Oman has historically served as an intermediary and messenger between Iran and the United States, including by facilitating nuclear negotiations between the two countries. Oman also serves as an intermediary between the Gulf States and the United States and the Houthis. Abdollahian separately thanked the Houthis for supporting Iran following the April 1 airstrike and claimed that Israel used “American-made aircraft and missiles” in the airstrike during his meeting with Abdul Salam.[xvi]

Abdollahian also traveled to Damascus, Syria, on April 8 and met with Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Foreign Affairs Minister Faisal Mekdad.[xvii] Abdollahian claimed that the United States is directly responsible for Israel’s “crimes and actions” and that Iran’s response to the April 1 airstrike will be “decisive” during his meeting with Assad.[xviii] Assad called for strengthening the Axis of Resistance “as much as possible” in response to the Israeli airstrike.[xix] Abdollahian visited a Syrian Foreign Affairs Ministry employee who was injured in the airstrike and inaugurated a new Iranian consular building in Damascus with Syrian Foreign Affairs Minister Faisal Mekdad.[xx]

Israel and Hamas are considering a new US-proposed ceasefire and hostage exchange deal. The deal would reportedly establish a six-week ceasefire in exchange for the release of 40 Israeli hostages held by Palestinian militias in the Gaza Strip.[xxi] Israel would release at least 700 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages.[xxii] Hamas must submit a list of 40 living hostages to mediators, which has reportedly been a sticking point in negotiations, including the most recent talks on April 7.[xxiii] The new proposal reportedly calls for Israel to make additional concessions on the return of displaced Palestinian civilians to the northern Gaza Strip by allowing Palestinians to return to the northern Gaza Strip at a more rapid pace than the Israelis had previously proposed.[xxiv] Israel submitted a ceasefire proposal on April 2 that reportedly allowed for the gradual return of 60,000 displaced Palestinians to unspecified zones of the northern Gaza Strip at a rate of 2,000 per day.[xxv] Hamas rejected the April 2 proposal.[xxvi]

Israeli officials and mediating countries have acknowledged the potential for a ceasefire deal, while anonymous Hamas sources have expressed skepticism about a ceasefire deal.[xxvii] Hamas said on April 7 that its negotiating delegation arrived in Cairo for talks with mediators but that it would adhere to its previous demands regarding a permanent ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.[xxviii] An anonymous Hamas official said on April 8 that there was ”no progress” on April 7.[xxix] White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby confirmed on April 8 that Hamas has received the proposal and will be waiting for Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar’s response over the next several days.[xxx] The Israeli security cabinet is scheduled to discuss the proposal on April 9.[xxxi] The Israeli foreign minister said on April 8 that negotiations had ”reached a critical point” for the first time since the previous ceasefire deal in November 2023.[xxxii] Egyptian and Qatari sources have also issued optimistic statements on the status of negotiations.[xxxiii]

An Israeli source told an Israel Army Radio correspondent that the IDF hopes Hamas will agree to the ceasefire so that Palestinian civilians sheltering in Rafah can migrate north before an Israeli clearing operation into Rafah at the end of the six-week ceasefire.[xxxiv] Unspecified Israeli sources claimed that the IDF withdrawal from the southern Gaza Strip will enable displaced Palestinians in Rafah to migrate to parts of Khan Younis and the central Gaza Strip.[xxxv] Israel and aid organizations have not yet constructed encampments in the southern and central Gaza Strip to which Gazans could migrate, however. Western media and local sources published images of destruction in Khan Younis after the IDF withdrawal.[xxxvi]

An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported that Palestinian militias resumed launching rockets from Khan Younis shortly after the IDF’s withdrawal on April 7.[xxxvii] Several Israeli brigades were involved in clearing operations in Khan Younis throughout February and March, likely reducing the ability of Palestinian fighters to launch rockets from the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli military correspondent said that Palestinian militias launched six rockets into Israel from Khan Younis on April 7 and 8, compared to the five rockets that the groups launched from Khan Younis in all of February and March.[xxxviii] The IDF said that Palestinian fighters fired three rockets on April 7 that fell in empty areas of Israel from Khan Younis.[xxxix] The IDF Air Force conducted airstrikes on the rocket launch sites and additional militia infrastructure near the site.[xl]

IDF Southern Command has directed airstrikes targeting Hamas rocket launch sites in the al Mawasi humanitarian area west of Khan Younis City over the past several days.[xli] The IDF said that it ensured civilians evacuated from the area before conducting the airstrikes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Senior Iranian military officials have continued to suggest that they will carefully calibrate Iran’s response to Israel's killing of senior IRGC commanders in Syria. This careful approach aims to avoid a direct war with Israel. This approach does not exclude an eventual Iranian retaliation, however.
  • Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on April 8 warned that Iran will retaliate for the April 1 Israeli airstrike, illustrating the possibility of an eventual response to the attack.
  • Arabic-language media outlet Jadeh Iran reported on April 7 and 8 that Iran has conditioned its potential response to the April 1 Israeli strike on a ceasefire in Gaza.
  • Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian is engaging in political coordination with Iranian partners and Oman following the April 1 Israeli airstrike that targeted Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officials in Damascus.
  • Ceasefire Negotiations: Israel and Hamas are considering a new US-proposed ceasefire and hostage exchange deal. Israeli officials and mediating countries have acknowledged the potential for a ceasefire deal, while anonymous Hamas sources have expressed skepticism about a ceasefire deal.
  • Gaza Strip: An Israeli source told an Israel Army Radio correspondent that the IDF hopes Hamas will agree to the ceasefire so that Palestinian civilians sheltering in Rafah can migrate north before an Israeli clearing operation into Rafah at the end of the six-week ceasefire.
  • An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported that Palestinian militias resumed launching rockets from Khan Younis shortly after the IDF’s withdrawal on April 7.
  • Several Israeli brigades were involved in clearing operations in Khan Younis throughout February and March, likely reducing the ability of Palestinian fighters to launch rockets from the southern Gaza Strip.
  • Lebanon: The IDF Air Force killed a senior official and commander in Hezbollah’s Radwan unit and two other Hezbollah fighters in an airstrike in southern Lebanon on April 8.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed that it conducted three drone attacks targeting Israeli military bases since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on April 7. Israeli officials and media have not commented on the claimed attacks at the time of this writing. CTP-ISW cannot verify the Islamic Resistance in Iraq’s attack claims.

Iran Update, April 7, 2024

Israel withdrew most of its forces from the Gaza Strip on April 7. Israeli officials and media sources have framed the withdrawals as part of their preparations for conducting a clearing operation into Rafah. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced on April 7 that Israeli “forces came out” of the Gaza Strip “and are preparing for future missions” into Rafah.[i] Israeli military correspondents similarly interpreted the withdrawal as part of an IDF effort to reconstitute ahead of advancing into Rafah.[ii] Israeli media close to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) clarified that the IDF 98th Division withdrew from the southern Gaza Strip on April 7.[iii] Israeli brigades and units operating under the command of the 98th Division were previously the only Israeli forces remaining in the southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources posted images of areas in which the 98th Division recently operated, suggesting that Israeli forces had withdrawn from those areas.[iv]

Hamas and other Palestinian militias will likely try to exploit the Israeli withdrawal to reconstitute militarily and reassert Hamas governing authority around Khan Younis. Israeli officials and media sources have framed the withdrawals as part of their transition toward a raid-based model around Khan Younis—similar to what the IDF has done in the northern Gaza Strip since December 2023.[v] Israeli military correspondents asserted that the IDF has destroyed Hamas’ Khan Younis Brigade and will accordingly transition to conducting raids to target remaining militia forces and infrastructure there.[vi] Hamas conducted a multi-stage attack that killed four Israeli soldiers in Khan Younis on April 6, however, demonstrating that Hamas retains some combat effectiveness there.[vii] CTP-ISW has reported extensively on how Hamas and other Palestinian militias have exploited the withdrawal of Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip to infiltrate and rebuild their networks there.[viii] The IDF has redeployed to several areas in the northern Gaza Strip in recent months to re-clear those areas of Palestinian fighters and militia infrastructure.[ix] Hamas and the other Palestinian militias will likely see an opportunity to pursue similar effects around Khan Younis following the Israeli withdrawal there.

Unspecified Israeli sources claimed that the IDF withdrawal from the southern Gaza Strip will enable displaced Palestinians in Rafah to migrate to parts of Khan Younis and the central Gaza Strip.[x] The migration of Palestinians from Rafah to other parts of the Gaza Strip would facilitate an Israeli clearing operation into Rafah, according to Israeli military correspondents.[xi] Israel and aid organizations have not yet constructed encampments in the southern and central Gaza Strip to which Gazans could migrate. Israeli media indicated that the construction of such encampments was part of the IDF humanitarian plan.[xii]

The withdrawal of the IDF 98th Division means that the Nahal Brigade is the only remaining Israeli unit in the Gaza Strip.[xiii]  The Nahal Brigade operates around the border of the central and northern Strip to secure Israeli-built highway Route 749, which bisects the northern and southern Gaza Strip and three nearby forward operating bases for future raids and operations in the Gaza Strip.[xiv] The role of the Nahal Brigade in securing the divide between the central and northern Gaza Strip is consistent with the IDF’s full transition to a raid-based model.  Israeli military correspondents have reported that the IDF uses the road to quickly launch raids into the Gaza Strip, such as the al Shifa Hospital operation that the IDF chief of staff called a ”great achievement” for leading to the capture and death of many senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighters on March 30.[xv]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza Strip: Israel withdrew most of its forces from the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials and media sources have framed the withdrawals as part of their preparations for conducting a clearing operation into Rafah. Hamas and other Palestinian militias will likely try to exploit the Israeli withdrawal to reconstitute militarily and reassert Hamas governing authority around Khan Younis.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed that it conducted a drone attack targeting an unspecified “vital target” in Eilat, Israel.
  • Yemen: The Houthis claimed that they conducted five drone and missile attacks targeting civilian and military vessels over the previous 72 hours.

Iran Update, April 6, 2024

  • Central Gaza Strip: Palestinian fighters have claimed several attacks targeting Israeli forces near Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip in recent days.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Hamas claimed to conduct a multi-stage attack targeting Israeli forces in eastern Khan Younis.
  • Political Negotiations: A senior US official said that US President Joe Biden sent letters to the Egyptian president and Qatari emir, asking them to pressure Hamas to agree to a six-week ceasefire agreement.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least five locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed two drone attacks targeting an unspecified military facility in the Golan Heights and an oil refinery in Haifa, Israel.

Iran Update, April 5, 2024

Some clerics close to the Office of the Supreme Leader suggested that Tehran will calibrate its response to Israel killing senior IRGC commanders in Syria in order to avoid a direct war with Israel."[i] Several Friday prayer leaders endorsed ”strategic patience”—a long-standing regime policy that involves not conducting a full response to Israeli attacks immediately—in their weekly sermon on April 5.[ii] The Office of the Supreme Leader issues guidance to Friday prayer leaders for the content of their sermons, which suggests that their promotions of strategic patience are part of a broader messaging effort from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.[iii] Khamenei previously ordered his military commanders to exercise strategic patience following an Israeli airstrike that killed senior IRGC Quds Force officer Brig. Gen. Razi Mousavi in Syria in December 2023, according to the New York Times.[iv] The public endorsements of a calibrated retaliation on April 5 are furthermore consistent with recent Western reporting.[v] Two unspecified Iranian officials told Reuters on April 4 that the immediate Iranian response would be “limited and aimed at deterrence.”[vi] Such reports support CTP-ISW's assessment that Iran seeks to avoid a direct military confrontation against the United States and Israel.[vii]

Tehran is also signaling that it wants to avoid involving the United States in its retaliation against Israel. An official in Raisi’s Presidential office claimed that Iran has warned the United States to “step aside, so you don’t get hit,” suggesting that Iran seeks to retaliate against Israeli targets.[viii] Western media has similarly suggested that Iran will target Israel directly, moreover. An unnamed US, Israeli, and other unspecified Western officials told the Washington Post that they expected Iran to retaliate with drones or missile attacks on Israeli targets that would be ”calibrated to avoid an even bigger response from Israel.”[ix] CBS separately reported that US intelligence indicates that Iran’s response will include ”a swarm of Shahed loitering drones and cruise missiles,” likely before the end of Ramadan on April 10.[x] Israel has reportedly evacuated several of its diplomatic facilities around the region in anticipation of a possible Iranian retaliation, although the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry has denied such reports.[xi]

Kataib Seyyed al Shuhada (KSS) Secretary General Abu Alaa al Walai threatened on April 5 to increase attacks targeting Israel if the IDF conducts a clearing operation into Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.[xii] Walai’s statement suggests that KSS may be at least one of the Iranian-backed Iraqi militias that has conducted attacks into Israel in recent weeks. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has conducted regular attacks into Israel since pausing its near daily attacks on US forces in February 2024. Walai also called for Arab and Islamic countries to sever all diplomatic ties with Israel and stop all normalization efforts.

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Iranian officials have signaled that they want to avoid involving the United States in their retaliation against Israel for killing senior IRGC commanders in Syria.
  • Iraq: An Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader threatened to increase attacks into Israel if the IDF conducts a clearing operation into Rafah.
  • Gaza Strip: Israeli leaders approved a series of measures to increase the volume of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters in at least four locations in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM conducted a preemptive strike targeting a Houthi-operated, anti-ship missile in Yemen.

Iran Update, April 4, 2024

Jaish al Adl, which is a Baloch, Salafi-jihadi militia, conducted unprecedentedly complex and sophisticated attacks targeting Iranian security forces in southeastern Iran on April 4.[i] Jaish al Adl conducted coordinated and simultaneous attacks targeting at least two Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) headquarters, a police station, and a naval facility in Chabahar and Rask in Iran’s Sistan and Balochistan Province.[ii] Jaish al Adl claimed that it conducted attacks targeting six locations total across Sistan and Balochistan Province, although CTP-ISW cannot verify every attack.[iii] At least 11 Iranian security personnel and 18 Jaish al Adl militants died during the attacks, which began around midnight on April 4 and lasted over 13 hours.[iv]

IRGC-affiliated media reported that Jaish al Adl militants opened fire at the IRGC headquarters in Rask from the top of a nearby hospital, while other militants assaulted the headquarters with explosives.[v] Iranian military officials and state media also reported that the militants wore suicide vests, which could have been the explosives used in the attack.[vi] Iranian state media claimed that the Jaish al Adl militants failed to breach the headquarters.[vii] Jaish al Adl contrastingly claimed that it captured munitions warehouses within the IRGC headquarters and published videos showing Jaish al Adl fighters seizing unspecified military equipment at the warehouse.[viii]

Jaish al Adl separately announced that it targeted Police Station 11 in Chabahar because the former police chief raped a young Baloch girl at this station in September 2022.[ix] This incident fueled public outrage and large-scale protests in the nearby city of Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province, in late September 2022. Iranian security forces violently suppressed the protests in Zahedan in an event that became known as “Bloody Friday.”[x] Jaish al Adl vowed in early October 2022 that it would retaliate against the Iranian regime for killing protesters and “enter the field with all its power.”[xi] Jaish al Adl referencing the rape of the young Baloch girl in Chabahar is likely part of an effort to cultivate support among the local population.

Jaish al Adl separately cited Iranian cooperation with China, India, and Russia as a reason for its April 4 attacks.[xii] The group specified that it seeks to disrupt the development of the Makran coast, a coastal strip that extends between southeastern Iran and southwestern Pakistan. Other Baloch militant groups, such as the Baloch Liberation Army, have previously targeted Chinese development projects in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province.[xiii]

The Jaish al Adl attacks demonstrate the group’s growing organization and ability to use relatively advanced tactics inside Iranian territory. Jaish al Adl claimed that it coordinated 168 fighters from two different battalions and an “intelligence and security unit” to conduct the attack.[xiv] Those same two Jaish al Adl battalions previously cooperated to raid an Iranian police station in Rask in December 2023.[xv] One of the Jaish al Adl battalions involved in the April 4 attack separately organized a rare, battalion-sized training exercise in October 2022.[xvi] Most Jaish al Adl attacks involve targeted killings, IED attacks, and raids targeting Iranian security forces’ outposts.[xvii] A Jaish al Adl attack targeting a Zahedan police station in July 2023, for instance, used only four fighters equipped with suicide vests.[xviii]

The Jaish al Adl attacks risk straining the Iranian relationship with Pakistan, which Iran accuses of harboring Jaish al Adl militants.[xix] Tehran has frequently called on the Pakistani government to crack down on Jaish al Adl and to secure its border with Iran.[xx] The IRGC previously conducted drone and missile strikes targeting two Jaish al Adl “headquarters” in southwestern Pakistan in January 2024 in retaliation for an earlier Jaish al Adl attack on a police station.[xxi] The Pakistani armed forces responded to the IRGC strikes by conducting their own cross-border attacks targeting anti-Pakistan Baloch separatists in southeastern Iran.[xxii] Iranian and Pakistani officials quickly sought to deescalate tensions following the exchange of strikes, but the fundamental tension points remain.[xxiii] The Pakistani Foreign Affairs Ministry condemned the April 4 Jaish al Adl attacks, possibly to try to preemptively address the risk of rising tensions with Iran.[xxiv]

The Jaish al Adl attacks highlight the increasingly precarious state of the Iranian internal security environment. There has been a significant uptick in anti-regime militancy and terrorist activity throughout Iran in recent years. Jaish al Adl has conducted several significant attacks in this period, possibly because it has exploited the Bloody Friday incident to drive recruitment and support for itself.[xxv] The Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State, known as Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), has similarly conducted several major attacks inside Iran, including two attacks on a holy shrine in Shiraz in October 2022 and August 2023 and another attack on funeral ceremony for Qassem Soleimani in January 2024.[xxvi] These security challenges compound with the fact that there have been several major, anti-regime protest waves in Iran in recent years, imposing increased strain on the Iranian internal security apparatus, as it tries to violently impose social control.

Two unspecified Iranian officials told Reuters that Iran will respond seriously to Israel killing IRGC Quds Force Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi in Syria but that the retaliation would also be “limited and aimed at deterrence.”[xxvii] The officials also indicated that Iran would continue trying to avoid a direct confrontation with Israel and the United States whilst continuing to support Iranian-backed attacks across the Middle East.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) military spokesperson “Abu Hamza” expressed support on April 4 for the anti-Israel protest movement in Jordan.[xxviii] Thousands of Jordanians have demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman since March 24 to demand that the Jordanian government cut diplomatic ties with Israel, withdraw from the 1994 peace treaty, and cut off the trade route between the Persian Gulf and Israel that cuts through Jordanian territory.[xxix] Abu Hamza said that PIJ is following the protest movement closely and that the Jordanians’ voice ”is beginning to spread.”[xxx] The leaders of PIJ and Hamas previously praised the Jordanian protest movement on March 29.[xxxi]

The Palestinian militias’ support for the Jordanian protests comes as Iran and its so-called ”Axis of Resistance” have similarly expressed a desire to disrupt the ”land bridge” connecting Israel to the Persian Gulf.[xxxii] CTP-ISW previously assessed that Iran and its Axis of Resistance may be shifting to a more confrontational strategy vis-a-vis Jordan as part of their effort to expand their capabilities and networks in the West Bank.[xxxiii]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Jaish al Adl, which is a Baloch, Salafi-jihadi militia, conducted unprecedentedly complex and sophisticated attacks targeting Iranian security forces in southeastern Iran.
  • Jordan: PIJ military spokesperson “Abu Hamza” expressed support on April 4 for the anti-Israel protest movement in Jordan.
  • Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations throughout the Gaza Strip. Hamas rejected the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal.
  • West Bank: The Shin Bet announced that it had detained and indicted eleven individuals, who had planned attacks against high-value targets in Israel.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. 
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has claimed two drone attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets.
  • Yemen: A senior US military official stated that the Houthis may be running low on their stockpiles of drones and anti-ship ballistic missiles due to persistent US airstrikes.

Iran Update, April 3, 2024

Key Takeaways:

  • Iraq: Several Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have signaled their desire to disrupt the “land bridge” connecting Israel to the Persian Gulf.
  • Social media users have alleged that Lebanese Hezbollah’s representative to Iraq, Mohammad Hossein al Kawtharani, traveled to Najaf, Iraq, possibly to coordinate the Axis of Resistance’s response to Israel killing IRGC Brig Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi on April 1
  • Northern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias continued to conduct attacks targeting Israeli forces around Gaza City.
  • Central Gaza Strip: Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters around Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip in recent days, suggesting that Israeli forces are advancing into the area.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to conduct clearing operations in western and northern Khan Younis.
  • Political Negotiations: The Qatari prime minister said that the main point of dispute in Israel-Hamas ceasefire negotiations is over the return of displaced people to different parts of the Gaza Strip.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces conducted raids in the West Bank and engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Syria: The Russian Defense Ministry announced that Russian forces have deployed to a new observation post along Syria-Golan Heights border.
  • Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech emphasizing Syria’s role in Iran’s Axis of Resistance.
  • Iran: Iranian leaders are continuing to hold Israel and the United States responsible for the April 1 airstrike targeting Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officials in Syria and vowing to exact revenge.
  • Yemen: US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking said that the United States is trying to negotiate a diplomatic solution to stop Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Iran Update, April 2, 2024

A prominent Iranian-backed Iraqi militia threatened to create and arm a new Iranian proxy in Jordan, which may reflect a greater, more confrontational, shift in the Iranian strategy vis-a-vis Jordan. Kataib Hezbollah military spokesperson Hussein Moanes, also known as Abu Ali al Askari, said on April 1 that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which is a coalition of Iranian-backed militias, has prepared to “equip” 12,000 “Islamic Resistance in Jordan” fighters with a significant supply of weapons.[i] The mention of an Islamic resistance network in Jordan is a notable inflection, as Iranian and Iranian-backed actors have not previously mentioned the existence of such an entity. Moanes said that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq seeks to equip Jordanian fighters, so that Iraq and Jordan can jointly attack Israel to ”defend” the Palestinian cause. Kataib Hezbollah released the statement in response to an Israeli airstrike in Damascus on April 1, which killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) members.[ii] Moanes’ statement is likely aspirational given the current strength of the Jordanian armed forces and the operational costs and time required to create a pro-Iran network in Jordan.

Kataib Hezbollah’s choice to publicize its desire to set up a large armed militia indicates a growing Iranian interest in using Jordan in its anti-Israel campaign, however. Jordan offers a direct front from which Iranian-backed fighters could more easily conduct and direct attacks into Israel. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq already utilizes Jordanian airspace for its drone attacks into Israel.[iii] An active and well-armed Iranian-backed militia based out of Jordan would dramatically advance Iran’s military encirclement of Israel.

An expanding Axis of Resistance network in Jordan would also facilitate Iranian efforts in the West Bank. Jordanian territory also offers multiple ground routes through which Iran could move military materiel into the West Bank. Tehran has sought to develop the capabilities and infrastructure of its militia network in the West Bank in recent years, but the Israel-Hamas war has highlighted the shortcomings of the networks there.[iv] Palestinian militias in the West Bank remain relatively disorganized and still use rudimentary capabilities to attack Israel and Israeli forces compared to the militias in the Gaza Strip. Iranian leaders could conclude that they need to invest further in building their networks into Jordan to develop their militia infrastructure in the West Bank more effectively.

Key Takeaways:

  • Jordan: A prominent Iranian-backed Iraqi militia threatened to create and arm a new Iranian proxy militia in Jordan, which may reflect a greater, more confrontational, shift in the Iranian strategy vis-a-vis Jordan.
  • Recent domestic unrest and large sustained demonstrations against Jordan’s Israel policy may be causing Iran and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq to approach Jordanian infiltration differently and more overtly.
  • Iran: The Iranian regime may target US forces or Israeli diplomatic facilities in retaliation for the Israeli airstrike in Damascus that killed seven IRGC officials.
  • Central Gaza Strip: The IDF conducted a drone strike in the central Gaza Strip that killed seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen.
  • Iraq: Russian Ambassador to Iraq Elbrus Kutrashev claimed that the United States would resort to “blackmailing” the Iraqi government to maintain its presence in Iraq. Kutrashev’s comments are likely part of the Russian effort to supplant the United States as a security partner in Iraq.
  • West Bank: Israeli forces conducted raids in the West Bank and engaged Palestinian fighters in at least two locations.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah threatened that it would retaliate in an unspecified manner against Israel in retaliation for the Israeli airstrike in Damascus that killed seven IRGC officials.
  • Syria: An unspecified Iranian-backed militia conducted a drone attack targeting US forces stationed at al Tanf Garrison in Homs Province, Syria. This attack marks the first Iranian-backed militia attack targeting US forces in the Middle East since February 4.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM reported that it destroyed a Houthi unmanned surface vessel that posed a threat to US ships and merchant vessels in the Red Sea.

Iran Update, April 1, 2024

Israel killed one of Iran’s senior-most military commanders in Syria in an airstrike on April 1.[i] Israel struck a building directly adjacent to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, killing Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi and some of his top subordinates.[ii] Zahedi was a highly influential and well-connected individual within the Iranian security establishment, having held several key positions throughout his career.[iii] Zahedi most recently commanded the IRGC Quds Force unit responsible for overseeing operations in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the Palestinian Territories.[iv] Zahedi almost certainly therefore played a prominent role in managing how Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” have escalated against the United States and Israel since the Israel-Hamas war began. Zahedi beforehand commanded the IRGC’s ground and air services and served as the operations deputy at the IRGC’s joint staff.[v] He was also part of an extraordinarily influential and tightly knit circle of senior IRGC officers who met one another during the Iran-Iraq War and have periodically come together in the intervening decades to interfere in Iranian domestic politics.[vi] Other members of this informal fraternity include Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who the United States killed in January 2020, and his successor and current Quds Force Commander Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani.

Israel targeted Zahedi as part of an air campaign that it has conducted to disrupt the Iranian transfer of military materiel to its proxies and partners in Lebanon and Syria.[vii] Israel has conducted several strikes targeting Iranian and Iranian-backed positions in Syria in recent months to this end, including killing IRGC Brig. Gen. Razi Mousavi outside Damascus in December 2023.[viii] Mousavi was one of Zahedi’s subordinates and responsible for moving military assets and equipment through Syria. Zahedi is now the senior-most Iranian officer that Israel has killed in its air campaign.

Iran and its Axis of Resistance may attack US and/or Israeli targets in the coming weeks in retaliation for the killing of Zahedi. The Iranian regime has vowed publicly to avenge Zahedi and is creating a domestic expectation that it will take some dramatic action.[ix] Iranian state media celebrated Zahedi’s prominence in the Axis of Resistance, publishing photos of him standing next to Qassem Soleimani and Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.[x] Iranian state media also emphasized that the April 1 Israeli airstrike hit a building that was part of the Iranian embassy and argued that the airstrike thus constitutes an attack on Iranian territory.[xi] Iranian and Iranian-backed forces could time part of their retaliation around Quds Day, which is the annual anti-Israel holiday that Iran and its Axis of Resistance promote, on April 5.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) concluded a two-week long operation in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 1. Israeli forces returned to re-clear the area on March 18 after receiving intelligence that Palestinian militias were using the hospital compound as a command-and-control center.[xii] Israeli forces killed a total of over 200 Palestinian fighters, some of whom had barricaded themselves inside the hospital.[xiii] The IDF also detained over 500 Palestinian fighters from near the hospital and seized intelligence documents and weapons.[xiv] The IDF said on April 1 that it “completed” the mission and that Israeli forces left the hospital area.[xv] Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on April 1 that “the terrorist base in Shifa has been eliminated.”[xvi] The IDF confirmed that Israeli forces will continue to operate in the northern Gaza Strip and "wherever terrorism rears its head."[xvii] Palestinian militias, including Hamas, confirmed that the IDF withdrew from al Shifa Hospital on April 1.[xviii]

The IDF captured several senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders in al Shifa, suggesting that the Palestinian militias were using the hospital compound as a command-and control node. The IDF raid sought to disrupt this node. Hamas and other Palestinian militias condemned the IDF for destroying buildings near the hospital complex during the operation.[xix] Palestinian fighters had reoccupied the hospital between November 2023—when Israeli forces initially cleared it—and March 2024. The hospital treated patients during this period, meaning that Palestinian militias reoccupied positions at the hospital while the hospital was operating.[xx] Palestinian fighters also conducted at least 85 attacks targeting Israeli forces in and around al Shifa Hospital over a two-week period. Many of the 85 attacks were indirect mortar and rocket-propelled grenades aimed at areas near the complex, including its front gate.[xxi] Three Palestinian militias continued to target Israeli forces at the hospital before the IDF concluded operations there on the morning of April 1.[xxii] Palestinian fighters also targeted Israeli forces from inside the hospital wards.[xxiii]

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran in the Region: An Israeli airstrike targeted a building directly adjacent to the Iranian embassy in Damascus, killing senior IRGC Quds Force commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi and some of his top subordinates.
  • Israel targeted Zahedi as part of an air campaign that it has conducted to disrupt the Iranian transfer of military materiel to its proxies and partners in Lebanon and Syria.
  • Iran and its Axis of Resistance may attack US and/or Israeli targets in the coming weeks in retaliation for the killing of Zahedi.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) concluded a two-week long operation in and around al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 1. The IDF captured several senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders in al Shifa, suggesting that the Palestinian militias were using the hospital compound as a command-and control node.
  • Palestinian fighters had reoccupied the hospital between November 2023—when Israeli forces initially cleared it—and March 2024. The hospital treated patients during this period, meaning that Palestinian militias reoccupied positions at the hospital while the hospital was operating.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Hamas said that its fighters conducted a complex multi-stage ambush targeting an Israeli armored personnel carrier, seven dismounted infantrymen, and a quick reaction force.
  • Iranian-backed Militias in Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—conducted a drone attack that damaged an IDF naval base in Eilat, southern Israel, on March 31.
  • Iran: Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with PIJ Secretary General Ziyad al Nakhalah on March 30 in Tehran.


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