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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Africa File, February 29, 2024

 Africa File, February 29, 2024: Russia Eyes Gulf of Guinea, JNIM Massacres Civilians in Burkina Faso

Authors: Liam Karr

Data Cutoff: February 29, 2024, at 10:00 a.m.

To receive the Africa File via email, please subscribe here. Follow CTP on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook.

The Africa File provides regular analysis and assessments of major developments regarding state and nonstate actors’ activities in Africa that undermine regional stability and threaten US personnel and interests. 

CTP rebranded the Salafi-Jihadi Movement Weekly Update and its related special updates to be named the Africa File on February 23, 2024. The name “Africa File” better reflects the updates’ Africa-centric nature in recent months. “Africa File” also better reflects CTP’s efforts in recent months to cover a wider range of national security interests on the African continent in addition to the Salafi-jihadi movement. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Togo. Reports of a small and potentially growing number of Russian military advisers in Togo indicate that Russia and Togo are increasing their ties as the Kremlin aims to expand its influence beyond the Sahel in West Africa. The Kremlin likely seeks to use Togo as a logistical node to support its other operations in Africa. Russia may also have a long-term aim of securing an Atlantic Ocean port in Togo, which would support the Kremlin’s strategic efforts to increase its threat to NATO’s flanks through basing in Africa. Russia will have to offset competing partnerships with Togo’s remaining non-French Western partners, such as the United States, but a future increase in instability could lead the Togolese government to further increase ties with Russia.
  • Burkina Faso. Al Qaeda’s Sahelian affiliate is increasing violence against civilians in eastern Burkina Faso, likely to coerce and deter civilians from resisting the group to expand its support zones. The group’s campaign is likely setting conditions to besiege the Est regional capital, Fada N’Gourma, the largest town in southeastern Burkina Faso.

Assessments:

Togo

Russia and Togo are increasing ties as the Kremlin aims to expand its influence beyond the Sahel in West Africa. French-based investigative news site Africa Intelligence reported on February 19 that a contingent of 30 Russian military advisers that recently arrived in Togo are helping Togolese troops build a new military camp on the border with Burkina Faso.[1] The purpose of the camp is to defend against Salafi-jihadi attacks that largely emanate from Burkina Faso.

The presence of Russian military advisers marks an expansion in Russian-Togolese military cooperation that has been growing since 2022. Russia delivered three Mi-35 combat helicopters and two Mi-17 transport helicopters to Togo in late 2022.[2] This deal established Russia over France and the United States as the leading provider of military hardware in Togo from 2012 to 2022, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s trend-indicator value index.[3] It also made Togo the leading recipient of Russian military hardware among the Francophile West African littoral states over the same period.[4] The trend-indicator value measures the volume of military capability transfers rather than the financial value of arms transfers.[5]

The Kremlin likely seeks to use Togo as a logistical node to support its other operations in Africa. The National Resistance Center of Ukraine, which is a Ukrainian Special Forces–run information operation and partisan support organization, claimed on February 24 that the Russian armed forces are planning to deploy a newly formed “African Expeditionary Force” to Togo in March 2024.[6] The expeditionary force would support the incumbent president in the upcoming 2025 elections.[7] The National Resistance Center also said that this would be the first step in a larger effort to secure Russian naval basing in Togo.[8] The naval base would strengthen a logistics corridor connecting Russian mercenary bases from Libya, through Burkina Faso and Mali, to the Gulf of Guinea via Togo.[9]

This rumored plan is like other types of Russian engagement in Africa that the Kremlin has described as a “regime survival package.”[10] The Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank, released a report in February 2024 based on internal Russian documents that confirmed that the Kremlin is explicitly pursuing a colonial strategy based on elite capture in Africa.[11] The Kremlin leverages formal state power and unconventional military units—such as the Wagner Group and Russian intelligence—to offer local elites military support, allyship in international bodies, and information campaigns to boost the elites’ domestic support.[12] Russia increases its influence over target governments and isolates them from the West as a result.[13]

The Wagner Group’s network in central Africa offers a blueprint for a similar regional logistics network. In Cameroon, a handful of Wagner Group operatives have leveraged the Kremlin’s good relations with the country’s longtime dictator to gain access to Cameroonian ports.[14] Wagner uses the ports to import and export goods and equipment related to its primary theater of operations in the neighboring Central African Republic.[15] Togo—like Cameroon—is not as reliant on rents as the states where the Kremlin has agreed to deploy mercenaries to gain access to African rents and resources.[16] Togo also does not require the same degree of security assistance as Burkina Faso and Mali, which are at the epicenter of the Sahel’s Salafi-jihadi insurgency. Both countries have deployed Russian mercenaries to combat the insurgency.[17]

Figure 1. Russian-Backed Engagement in Northwest Africa

 

Source: Liam Karr; European Parliament; Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

Note: “SIPRI” is Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The Kremlin may also have a long-term goal of securing an Atlantic Ocean port in Togo to support its strategic aims of expanding another flank from which to threaten NATO with naval basing in Africa. The Ukrainian Resistance Center’s assessment said that Russia aimed to secure naval basing in Togo as part of a logistics corridor.[18] However, the Kremlin has also sought to expand its military naval basing in other parts of Africa in recent years. These efforts aim to expand its military footprint and offset Turkey’s closing of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which prevents Russia’s Black Sea Fleet from supporting Russian activity in the Mediterranean and Syria.[19] Russia has repeatedly backed factions in Sudan that it believes will follow through on a 2017 agreement for a Red Sea port in Sudan and is trying to secure a Mediterranean port in Libya, which would complement its port at Tartus, Syria.[20]

Russian ports in Africa would pose a long-term strategic threat to NATO by supporting Russia’s aim to have a standing force able to threaten NATO critical infrastructure with long-range cruise missile strikes from the sea.[21] Russian strategy and doctrine emphasize the importance of preemptive deployments of naval forces to establish deterrence and set favorable conditions for an ensuing conflict.[22] It identifies the navy as a critical tool to conventionally “attack critically important ground-based facilities” from the sea on short notice to destroy an enemy’s military and economic potential.[23]

Russian naval activity in the Mediterranean poses a clear danger to Europe. An Italian MP and former head of the Italian armed forces claimed in January 2024 that the Kremlin would base nuclear-powered submarines in Libya if it secured a base.[24] A Russian naval base at Tobruk would put most of central and southern Europe within range of Russian frigates and submarines with Kalibr cruise missile systems.[25]

Russian basing in the Gulf of Guinea would create an alternative but more limited flank to the Mediterranean and bring Russian naval platforms closer to the United States. Russian nuclear-powered submarines in the Atlantic would be past the main NATO checkpoint to the Atlantic at the British territory of Gibraltar, increasing the risk to the United States.[26] Nuclear-powered submarines with Kalibr systems would also be in range to strike Gibraltar once they reached the Mauritanian coast, just under 1,400 miles from the Togolese port capital, Lome. Russia deployed an Admiral Gorshkov–class frigate—which has a seaworthy range of 5,580 miles—to conduct a computer simulation hypersonic cruise missile strike exercise in the Atlantic Ocean in January 2023, underscoring its intention to project naval power into the Atlantic.[27]

Russia will have to manage competition with Togo’s remaining non-French Western partners, such as the United States, to secure its aims. Togo has tried to balance ties with non-French Western partners as it expands its partnership with Russia instead of using Russian aid to outright replace Western assistance.[28] Togo is one of five coastal West African countries that receive support from the US Global Fragility Act (GFA), which supports long-term, locally-led plans to increase community resilience and address the root political causes of instability.[29]

The program is a whole-of-government plan involving the US Defense and State Departments and the US Agency for International Development that provides locally attuned development, political, and security assistance.[30] US Africa Command Commander Gen. Michael Langley and the US ambassador to Togo led a delegation meeting with the Togolese president, military chief of staff, and other leaders in August as part of these efforts.[31]

A future increase in instability could lead the Togolese government to increase ties with Russia. A deterioration of the security situation in northern Togo would jeopardize the continued backing of Western partnerships and lead to more militarized policies, which favor cooperation with Russia. Al Qaeda’s Sahelian affiliate uses Togo as a buffer zone and transit route for activities in Benin and Burkina Faso, which has limited it to a low-level, cross-border threat in Togo.[32] However, the group has shifted to establishing a more active and locally driven insurgency in neighboring Benin since 2021, which highlights the risk of a similar move in Togo in the future.[33] The military governments leading Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger responded to deteriorating security by overthrowing their civilian-led governments, rejecting Western-backed counterterrorism assistance, and taking an even more aggressive and militarized approach with Russian backing.[34]

Internal political pressure could also drive Togo’s president into the Kremlin’s orbit. Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe’s authoritarian tendencies increase his alignment with Russia. Gnassingbe will be seeking his fifth—and legally final—term in upcoming elections scheduled for 2025.[35] He has been in office since the military installed him to succeed his father in 2005.[36] Opposition figures claimed widespread election fraud during the most recent elections in 2020, adding to Gnassingbe’s questionable democratic credentials.[37] Togolese authorities have also suppressed independent information and press freedoms in jihadist-afflicted areas of northern Togo by harassing journalists since 2022.[38] Russia has helped authoritarian leaders subvert democracy across Africa, and the Ukrainian Resistance Center’s claim that Russia is planning to send operatives to support Gnassingbe’s reelection bid matches the other kinds of support Russia has offered on the continent.[39]

Russia has shown that it ideologically and materially outcompetes the West in unstable authoritarian-led countries in Africa. Russia’s military doctrine is more aligned with a heavily militarized and callous counterinsurgency approach.[40] The GFA exemplifies this divergence in Russian and Western outlook, as the program says it aims to “incorporate lessons learned from overly securitized approaches” (emphasis added) in the Sahel over the past decade.[41]

This discrepancy has the practical effect of making Russian military hardware easier to acquire for countries facing democratic or humanitarian concerns from the West.[42] Russia has also repeatedly shown that it will back friendly authoritarian leaders through “regime security packages” that keep Kremlin allies in power by mitigating domestic and international backlash.[43] These kinds of Russian partnerships accelerate breakdowns between the African states and Western partners by worsening democratic and human rights records.[44] This distancing from the West further increases partner countries’ reliance on Russia and brings them into the Kremlin’s orbit.[45]

Burkina Faso

Al Qaeda’s Sahelian affiliate is increasing violence against civilians in eastern Burkina Faso, likely to coerce and deter civilians from cooperating with security forces or arming themselves. Militants from Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wa al Muslimeen (JNIM) massacred “dozens” of civilians attending morning prayer at a mosque in Gourma province and simultaneously attacked a military base in the same town on the morning of February 25.[46] JNIM has carried out at least eight attacks in southeastern Burkina Faso’s Gourma province since January 21.[47] This matches the group’s previous peak rates over the past year in July and November 2023.[48]

The attacks since January 2024 have significantly grown in severity, especially for civilians. JNIM killed 10 or more people in four attacks in Gourma province in 2023, only one of which targeted civilians or civilian militias.[49] However, six of the attacks since January 21 have killed 10 or more people, including an attack that killed 50 civilians on February 7.[50] Five of the six attacks have involved casualties among civilians or civilian militias.[51]

JNIM’s civilian targeting campaign is benefiting from a lack of effective state forces in the region. The disproportionate targeting of civilians underscores the lack of formal security forces in the area that can either defend villages or reinforce civilian militias. A special police unit retreated to the regional capital in one instance, underscoring the inadequacy of state security forces even when they are present.[52] The Burkinabe military announced on February 23 that it had deployed special force units to the Est region, which could help stabilize the situation.[53]

JNIM is likely setting conditions to besiege the regional capital, Fada N’Gourma. All of JNIM’s attacks in the region since January 2024 have occurred along roads that lead to Fada N’Gourma or in rural areas within 25 miles of the regional capital. This campaign has forced dozens of civilians to flee from their villages to Fada N’Gourma.[54] People who remain in their villages risk being the target of JNIM violence, especially if they attempt to resist the group. The end effect is that JNIM secures freedom of movement across these areas.

Figure 2. JNIM Increases Pressure Around Fada N’Gourma

 

Source: Liam Karr; Armed Conflict Location and Event Database.

JNIM has regularly besieged major population centers across the Sahel instead of taking them by force.[55] JNIM does this to undermine state authority and inflict punishments on civilians presumed to be cooperating with state security forces.[56] This psychological impact and the humanitarian strain of a siege enable the group to secure favorable negotiations with local leaders and impose a level of indirect control.[57]

Cutting off Fada N’Gourma would be a symbolic blow to the Burkinabe government and increase pressure on the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou. Fada N’Gourma is 136 miles east of Ouagadougou and is the largest town in southeastern Burkina Faso, with 73,000 residents as of the 2019 national census.[58] The current junta rose to power promising to improve security, and the deteriorating situation around one of Burkina Faso’s largest towns will increase popular discontent.[59] Previous high-visibility military setbacks similarly caused spikes in popular discontent in 2022, eventually contributing to coups.[60] Fada N’Gourma is also a prominent market town that lies at the intersection of roadways that connect Ouagadougou to southeastern Burkina Faso and Niger, meaning a siege would impact national commerce.

 


[1] https://www.africaintelligence.com/west-africa/2024/02/19/army-overseein...

[2] https://www.military dot africa/2022/12/togo-boosts-airpower-with-russian-mi-35m-and-mi-17-helicopters; https://www.africaintelligence.com/west-africa/2022/12/13/togo-secretly-...

[3] https://armstrade.sipri.org/armstrade/html/export_values.php

[4] https://armstrade.sipri.org/armstrade/html/export_values.php

[5] https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/files/FS/SIPRIFS1212.pdf; htt...

[6] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/rosiya-ne-pokydaye-planiv-zahoplennya-kontrolyu-nad-zahidnoyu-afrykoyu; https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/en/who-are-we

[7] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/rosiya-ne-pokydaye-planiv-zahoplennya-kontrolyu-nad-zahidnoyu-afrykoyu; https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/en/who-are-we

[8] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/rosiya-ne-pokydaye-planiv-zahoplennya-kontrolyu-nad-zahidnoyu-afrykoyu; https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/en/who-are-we

[9] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/rosiya-ne-pokydaye-planiv-zahoplennya-kontrolyu-nad-zahidnoyu-afrykoyu;

[10] https://static.rusi.org/SR-Russian-Unconventional-Weapons-final-web.pdf;...

[11] https://static.rusi.org/SR-Russian-Unconventional-Weapons-final-web.pdf

[12] https://static.rusi.org/SR-Russian-Unconventional-Weapons-final-web.pdf

[13] https://static.rusi.org/SR-Russian-Unconventional-Weapons-final-web.pdf;...

[14] https://www.theafricareport.com/275235/car-cameroon-an-investigation-int...

[15] https://www.theafricareport.com/275235/car-cameroon-an-investigation-int...

[16] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.TOTL.RT.ZS; https://bloodgo...

[17] https://www.dw.com/en/after-wagner-russia-makes-new-military-plans-in-af...

[18] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/rosiya-ne-pokydaye-planiv-zahoplennya-kontrolyu-nad-zahidnoyu-afrykoyu

[19] https://news.usni.org/2022/02/28/turkey-closes-bosphorus-dardanelles-str...

[20] https://www.wsj.com/world/africa/russia-seeks-to-expand-naval-presence-i...

[21] https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2022/may/kalibrization-russia...

[22] https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/rmsi_research/2; https://www.usni.org...

[23] https://www.eastviewpress.com/the-naval-might-of-russia-in-todays-geopol...

[24] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/italy-fears-russia-plans-nuclear-base...

[25] https://www.kyivpost.com/post/24105

[26] https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2022/may/kalibrization-russia...

[27] https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russia-defence-ministry-says-frigat...

[28] https://www.africaintelligence.com/west-africa/2023/05/29/lome-s-delicat...

[29] https://www.state.gov/the-u-s-strategy-to-prevent-conflict-and-promote-s...

[30] https://www.state.gov/the-u-s-strategy-to-prevent-conflict-and-promote-s...

[31] https://www.africom.mil/pressrelease/35244/usafricom-leaders-visit-cote-...

[32] https://www.clingendael.org/pub/2022/conflict-in-the-penta-border-area/3...

[33] https://www.clingendael.org/pub/2022/conflict-in-the-penta-border-area/3...

[34] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/salafi-jihadi-movement-update-s...

[35] https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN1SF1PX

[36] https://freedomhouse.org/country/togo/freedom-world/2023; https://www.b...

[37] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51606972; https://www.rfi.fr/en/a...

[38] https://afriquexxi.info/Au-Togo-blackout-sur-la-menace-djihadiste

[39] https://africacenter.org/spotlight/intervening-to-undermine-democracy-in... https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/rosiya-ne-pokydaye-planiv-zahoplennya-kontrolyu-nad-zahidnoyu-afrykoyu; https://static.rusi.org/SR-Russian-Unconventional-Weapons-final-web.pdf

[40] https://static.rusi.org/SR-Russian-Unconventional-Weapons-final-web.pdf

[41] https://www.state.gov/the-u-s-strategy-to-prevent-conflict-and-promote-s...

[42] https://apnews.com/article/united-nations-general-assembly-africa-france...

[43] https://static.rusi.org/SR-Russian-Unconventional-Weapons-final-web.pdf

[44] https://static.rusi.org/SR-Russian-Unconventional-Weapons-final-web.pdf

[45] https://static.rusi.org/SR-Russian-Unconventional-Weapons-final-web.pdf

[46] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-68408405; https://www.rfi.fr/fr/a...

[47] Author’s database of significant activity (SIGACT); Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) database, available at www.acleddata.com

[48] Author’s database of SIGACTs; ACLED database, available at www.acleddata.com

[49] https://crisis24.garda dot com/alerts/2023/04/burkina-faso-militants-kill-33-soldiers-during-attack-in-est-region-april-27; https://crisis24.garda dot com/alerts/2023/07/burkina-faso-heightened-security-likely-near-tagou-gourma-province-east-region-after-armed-attack-left-at-least-20-people-dead-july-12; https://x.com/Wamaps_news/status/1712767109036462107?s=20; ACLED database, available at www.acleddata.com

[50] SITE Intelligence Group, “JNIM Claims 24 Burkinabe Militiamen Killed in 2 Attacks in 2 Days,” January 25, 2024, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; https://twitter.com/Wamaps_news/status/1754868960258822235; https://www... SITE Intelligence Group, “JNIM Claims Cross-Border Attack on Beninese Soldiers, Detonate 16 IEDs on Burkinabe Troops in 2 Days,” February 23, 2024, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com; https://twitter.com/Wamaps_news/status/1759902527212990912; https://fra...

[51] SITE Intelligence Group, “JNIM Claims 24 Burkinabe Militiamen Killed in 2 Attacks in 2 Days”; https://twitter.com/Wamaps_news/status/1754868960258822235; https://www... SITE Intelligence Group, “JNIM Claims Cross-Border Attack on Beninese Soldiers, Detonate 16 IEDs on Burkinabe Troops in 2 Days”; https://francais.rt.com/afrique/109714-burkina-faso-mosquee-eglise-attaq...

[52] https://lefaso dot net/spip.php?article128201

[53] https://twitter.com/EclairsSahel/status/1761087129231196583

[54] https://x.com/WamapsENG/status/1755155299365720455?s=20; https://twitte... ACLED database, available at www.acleddata.com

[55] https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2023/12/05/burkina-faso-... https://adf-magazine dot com/2023/12/1-million-in-burkina-faso-surviving-under-extremists-blockades

[56] https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2023/12/05/burkina-faso-...

[57] https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/sahel/mali/mali-enabling-dialogue-jih...

[58] http://www.citypopulation.de/en/burkinafaso/cities

[59] https://www.jeuneafrique.com/1484931/politique/au-burkina-faso-la-grogne...

[60] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/17/burkina-faso-death-toll-securi...

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Iran Update, February 28, 2024

Andie Parry, Kathryn Tyson, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, Rachel Friedman, Amin Soltani, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET 

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. For more on developments in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.

Note: CTP and ISW have refocused the update to cover the Israel-Hamas war. The new sections address developments in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as noteworthy activity from Iran’s Axis of Resistance. We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Click here to see CTP and ISW’s interactive map of Israeli ground operations. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report. Click here to subscribe to the Iran Update.

Palestinian militias have claimed at least 92 attacks targeting Israeli forces in Zaytoun, southeastern Gaza City, between February 19 and February 28.[1] At least seven Palestinian militias conducted attacks on Israeli forces in Zaytoun on February 27 and 28.[2] Palestinian militias have targeted Israeli forces with rocket propelled grenades, mortars, explosively-formed penetrators (EFP), improvised explosive devices, small arms, and rockets in Zaytoun since February 19.[3] These attacks are in response to the ongoing division-sized clearing operation targeting Zaytoun.

This high attack rate involving at least seven Palestinian militias using sophisticated military capabilities indicates that Palestinian fighters have retained military capacity in southern Gaza City despite two Israeli clearing operations there. The militias likely infiltrated into previously cleared areas of southern Gaza City from the uncleared central Gaza Strip. The militias also likely reactivated dormant cells after the Israelis decreased the size of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) contingent in the northern Strip. The IDF said that Hamas’ Central and Gaza City Brigades transferred fighters between battalions through tunnel networks.[4] Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh insinuated on February 28 that Israeli clearing operations in Zaytoun had failed, noting that Hamas’ continued attacks in Zaytoun are “the [fiercest] battles” despite Israel‘s 80-day “occupation.”[5]

The IDF 162nd Division continued its clearing operation in Zaytoun neighborhood, southeastern Gaza City, on February 28. The IDF Nahal Brigade (assigned to the 162nd Division) killed Palestinian fighters and located weapons in Zaytoun.[6] The Israeli Air Force conducted airstrikes on a Hamas warehouse in Daraj, north of Zaytoun.[7]

Key Takeaways:

  • Gaza City: Palestinian militias have claimed at least 92 attacks targeting Israeli forces in Zaytoun, southeastern Gaza City, between February 19 and February 28. This high attack rate involving at least seven Palestinian militias using sophisticated military capabilities indicates that Palestinian fighters have retained military capacity in southern Gaza City despite two Israeli clearing operations there.
  • The militias likely infiltrated into previously cleared areas of southern Gaza City from the uncleared central Gaza Strip. The militias also likely reactivated dormant cells after the Israelis decreased the size of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) contingent in the northern Strip.
  • The attacks in Zaytoun are in response to the ongoing division-sized clearing operation targeting Zaytoun. The IDF 162nd Division continued its clearing operation in Zaytoun neighborhood, southeastern Gaza City, on February 28.
  • Rafah: IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said on February 27 that Israel seeks to ensure displaced Gazan civilians have access to food, aid, medicine, and hospital facilities in a separate, safer zone before conducting ground operations in Rafah.
  • Negotiations: Israeli negotiators are expected to leave Qatar on February 29 if there is no significant breakthrough in ceasefire talks, according to two Israeli sources familiar with the process.
  • Yemen: CENTCOM and an unspecified coalition warship shot down five Houthi one-way attack drones over the Red Sea on February 27.
  • Iraq-Russia: The Iraqi government may request a sanctions waiver to purchase spare parts for Russian-manufactured helicopters. A Parliamentary Security and Defense Committee member cited by an independent Iraqi news outlet said that there is an “unannounced” effort to resolve the shortage of parts for Iraq’s Russian-made helicopters.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip
  • Degrade IDF material and morale around the Gaza Strip.

The IDF continued clearing operations in western Khan Younis on February 28. The IDF 7th Brigade (assigned to the 36th Division) raided militia positions and fired a missile targeting five Palestinian fighters in a vehicle in western Khan Younis.[8] The IDF 35th Paratrooper Brigade also fired sniper rifles at several Palestinian fighters operating in western Khan Younis.[9] The 98th Division directed an airstrike on Palestinian fighters attempting an ambush of Israeli fighters in Khan Younis.[10] Palestinian militias conducted at least five attacks targeting Israeli forces operating in central and western Khan Younis on February 28.[11]

The IDF Givati Brigade (assigned to the 162nd Division) continued operations in eastern Khan Younis and directed airstrikes targeting two Palestinian fighters on February 28.[12] Hamas fighters pre-placed and detonated two EFPs targeting Israeli tanks operating in Abasan al Kabira on February 28.[13] Hamas and other Palestinian militias claimed small arms clashes with Israeli forces in Abasan al Kabira and north of the town.[14]

Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh gave a rare recorded public address at a conference in Beirut on February 28.[15] Haniyeh claimed that Hamas has displayed flexibility in negotiations but remains ready to continue fighting.[16] He also warned Israel against imposing additional restrictions for Muslims on access to the al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan and called on Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the West Bank to march on al Aqsa Mosque on the first day of Ramadan, which begins around March 10.[17] Some far-right Israeli ministers have proposed restricting access to the al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, but Israel has not announced a new policy.[18]

IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said on February 27 that Israel seeks to ensure displaced Gazan civilians have access to food, aid, medicine, and hospital facilities in a separate, safer zone before conducting ground operations in Rafah.[19] Israel facilitated the airdrop of aid into Khan Younis and access to the northern Gaza Strip for 31 aid trucks on February 27.[20] Israel is reportedly still considering opening a direct aid crossing from Israel into the northern Gaza Strip to increase aid flows.[21]

Russian state media confirmed that Fatah and Hamas officials will meet in Moscow on February 29 to discuss the formation of a new Palestinian government.[22] Hamas has not independently confirmed its attendance. A senior Hamas delegation last traveled to Moscow in late October 2023 to meet with Russian and Iranian officials.[23] Some smaller political factions actively fighting Israeli forces in Gaza, like the Palestinian Mujahideen Movement, criticized the meeting for excluding other Palestinian groups.[24] Fatah leaders gave unoptimistic statements to media organizations about the meeting.[25] The Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al Maliki said that he does not expect “miracles to happen” and added that the time is not right for a ”national coalition government” or a government that includes Hamas. Maliki cited the risk of an international boycott against any government including Hamas.[26] Russia has framed itself as a possible mediator between Israel and Hamas.[27]

Israeli negotiators are expected to leave Qatar on February 29 if there is no significant breakthrough in ceasefire talks, according to two Israeli sources familiar with the process.[28] Reuters reported on February 27 that the parties are discussing the latest ”Paris Proposal” that would require both Israel and the Palestinian militias to completely stop their military operations in the Gaza Strip. The latest proposal would also force Israel to pause aerial surveillance in the Strip for eight hours daily and reposition IDF units away from densely populated areas. The proposal would allow the gradual return of all displaced civilians except military aged males to the northern Gaza Strip.[29] Hamas would release 40 female, child, and elderly hostages in exchange for approximately 400 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel under the latest proposal.[30] Israel would also commit to bring in 500 humanitarian aid trucks per day, 200,000 tents, 60,000 caravans, fuel, and heavy machinery to rehabilitate hospitals and bakeries in the Gaza Strip.[31] Hamas representatives have reportedly not provided a full response to the proposal.[32] Hamas Political Bureau member Muhammad Nazal said on February 28 that ”there is no escaping the end of the war” but that Hamas does not have to agree to ”the first stage of the deal.”[33]

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired a rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip targeting Kissufim in southern Israel on February 28.[34]

The IDF Gaza Division and Southern Command directed airstrikes in Central Gaza targeting eight “significant targets,” including a PIJ rocket launcher used to attack Ashkelon on February 27.[35]

West Bank

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward the West Bank and fix them there

Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters at least five times in the West Bank on February 28.[36]

This map is not an exhaustive depiction of clashes and demonstrations in the West Bank.

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel and fix them there
  • Set conditions for successive campaigns into northern Israel

Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, has conducted at least six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on February 27.[37] Hamas’ military wing said that it fired 40 rockets targeting two Israeli positions in northern Israel.[38] The IDF said that only 15 of the rockets that Hamas fired crossed into Israeli territory. One of the rockets damaged a home in the area.[39]

Unspecified sources familiar with Lebanese Hezbollah decisionmaking told Reuters on February 27 that the group will stop attacks on northern Israel if Hamas agrees to a ceasefire.[40] Hamas is currently considering a proposal that would include a six-week truce with Israel.[41]

Recorded reports of attacks; CTP-ISW cannot independently verify impact.

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Axis of Resistance campaign objectives:

  • Demonstrate the capability and willingness of Iran and the Axis of Resistance to escalate against the United States and Israel on multiple fronts
  • Set conditions to fight a regional war on multiple fronts

The Iraqi government may request a sanctions waiver to purchase spare parts for Russian-manufactured helicopters.[42] A Parliamentary Security and Defense Committee member cited by an independent Iraqi news outlet said that there is an “unannounced” effort to resolve the shortage of parts for Iraq’s Russian-made helicopters. The US Department of Defense Inspector General’s Q3 Report on Operation Inherent Resolve said that “sanctions related to the war in Ukraine have prevented the acquisition of new parts [for Russian-produced helicopters].”[43] The report added that most of Iraq’s Russian-manufactured helicopters are not airworthy due to ”maintenance constraints, outdated systems, and lack of available spare parts.”[44] Russian Ambassador to Iraq Elbrus Kutrashev has discussed security cooperation with several senior Iraqi political and military officials in a series of meetings since late January 2024. CTP-ISW assessed on February 20 that Russia may be setting conditions to supplant the United States as Iraq’s security partner in anticipation of the United States possibly reducing its military presence in Iraq.[45]

An unspecified “judicial source” told Iraqi Kurdish media that Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit on February 28 that attempted to invalidate Parliament Speaker nominee Shaalan al Karim’s candidacy.[46] The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court stated that the lawsuit does not fall under the court’s jurisdiction. Iranian-backed Iraqi politicians filed a lawsuit on January 13 to invalidate Karim’s candidacy as part of their efforts to install their preferred candidate, Mahmoud al Mashhadani, as speaker.[47]

The Sistan and Baluchistan Province prosecutor said that two unspecified “terrorist operatives” attempted to conduct attacks targeting Iranian security officials in Bampur on February 28.[48] The two fighters attempted to target an Iranian security forces patrol near an Iranian checkpoint in Bampur. The fighters prematurely detonated their explosives, killing one fighter.[49]

This incident is part of an uptick in anti-regime militancy in southeastern Iran since December 2023. Jaish al Adl—a Balochi, Salafi-jihadi group operating along the Iran-Pakistan border—has conducted at least five attacks targeting Iranian security personnel since December 2023.[50] The Iranian Law Enforcement Command killed a purportedly Jaish al Adl-affiliated individual in Bampur City on January 8.[51] The Afghan branch of the Islamic State separately conducted a terrorist attack in Kerman Province in early January 2024, killing over 90 individuals.[52]

The Iranian communications and information technology minister announced on February 28 that Russia will launch the Iranian Pars-1 satellite into orbit on February 29.[53] Iranian state media claimed that Russia will use its Soyuz space launch vehicle to launch the Pars-1 into low earth orbit.[54] Russia similarly launched a Kanopus-V satellite—alternatively referred to as the Khayyam in Iran—into orbit in August 2022 on Iran’s behalf.[55] The IRGC Aerospace Force Command and Iranian Space Organization separately launched multiple Iranian satellites into low-earth orbit between April 2020 and January 2024.[56] Iran can use satellites capable of collecting imagery to help enable targeting capabilities for attacks abroad.[57] Iranian state media reported in July 2020 that the IRGC used its satellites to collect intelligence on US military positions in the region.[58]

CENTCOM and an unspecified coalition warship shot down five Houthi one-way attack drones over the Red Sea on February 27.[59] CENTCOM said that the drones presented an ”imminent” threat to vessels in the Red Sea.

The German frigate Hessen shot down two Houthi one-way attack drones over the Red Sea on February 27.[60] The Hessen identified a suspicious target over the Red Sea on February 26 but did not successfully intercept the target.[61] It is unclear if the Hessen is the unspecified coalition warship noted by CENTCOM.

A Houthi-controlled media outlet said that the United States and United Kingdom targeted Houthi sites on Labwan Island, off the coast of Hudaydah, on February 27.[62] Neither the United States nor the United Kingdom have confirmed the strikes.


[1] https://t.me/sarayaps/17475

https://t.me/sarayaps/17476

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5820

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5826

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5827

https://t.me/AymanGouda/6065

https://t.me/darebmojahden/4451

https://t.me/abualiajel/138

https://t.me/nedalps/4000

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1663

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1664

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1665

https://t.me/sarayaps/17478

https://t.me/pflpgaza1/13856

https://t.me/darebmojahden/4455

https://t.me/nedalps/4003

https://t.me/sarayaps/17482

https://t.me/sarayaps/17483

https://t.me/sarayaps/17487

https://t.me/kataeb_moqawma/4147

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1673

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1674

https://t.me/sarayaps/17489

https://t.me/mojahdeenpal/4253

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5841

https://t.me/sarayaps/17495

https://t.me/sarayaps/17496

https://t.me/kataeb_moqawma/4148

https://t.me/abualiajel/141

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5846

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5850

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5852

https://t.me/mojahdeenpal/4255

https://t.me/darebmojahden/4468

https://t.me/hamza20300/218379

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1678

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1679

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1680

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1681

https://t.me/sarayaps/17497

https://t.me/sarayaps/17499

https://t.me/darebmojahden/4479

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5864

https://t.me/kataeb_moqawma/4149

https://t.me/sarayaps/17507

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1692

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1695

https://t.me/darebmojahden/4435

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5793

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1651

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1652

https://t.me/sarayaps/17456

https://t.me/sarayaps/17459

https://t.me/sarayaps/17460

https://t.me/sarayaps/17462

https://t.me/sarayaps/17463

https://t.me/mojahdeenpal/4245

https://t.me/sarayaps/17467

https://t.me/nedalps/3997

https://t.me/nedalps/3998

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5802

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1656

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1657

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1659

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5807

https://t.me/kataeb_moqawma/4146

https://t.me/kataeb_moqawma/4142

https://t.me/kataeb_moqawma/4144

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1646

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1647

https://t.me/sarayaps/17455

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5788

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5783

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5785

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5780

https://t.me/darebmojahden/4424

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1636

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1637

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1643

https://t.me/sarayaps/17451

https://t.me/sarayaps/17452

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1630

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1631

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1633

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1634

https://t.me/sarayaps/17450

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5761

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5782

https://t.me/AymanGouda/6057

https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5755

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1628

https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1629

https://t.me/sarayaps/17447

[2] https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1695 ; https://t.me/sarayaps/17507 ; ht... https://t.me/abualiajel/141

[3] https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1695 ; https://t.me/sarayaps/17507; http... https://t.me/mojahdeenpal/4253

[4] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1762164907296915668

[5] https://t.me/hamasps/19641 ; https://t.me/hamasps/19636

[6] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1762730896753357021

[7] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1762730896753357021        ... https://twitter.com/MiddleEastBuka/status/1762749837714362409?s=20

[8] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1762730765408747889        ... https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1762730837357842917

[9] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1762730837357842917

[10] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1762730848128745489

[11] https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5860 ; https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1689 ; ... https://t.me/darebmojahden/4480

[12] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1762730848128745489

[13] https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1688

[14] https://t.me/sarayaps/17505 ; https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1688 ; ht... https://t.me/sarayaps/17508

[15] https://t.me/hamasps/19641

[16] ; https://t.me/hamasps/19636 ; https://t.me/hamasps/19637 ; https://t.... https://t.me/hamasps/19640

[17] ; https://t.me/hamasps/19636 ; https://t.me/hamasps/19637 ; https://t.... https://t.me/hamasps/19640

[18] https://www.timesofisrael dot com/liveblog_entry/sidelining-ben-gvir-war-cabinet-rejects-ramadan-restrictions-on-arab-israelis-at-temple-mount/ ; https://www.timesofisrael dot com/liveblog_entry/authorities-warned-of-unrest-if-muslims-barred-from-temple-mount-on-ramadan/

[19] https://www.cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news-02-2...

[20] https://www.timesofisrael dot com/liveblog_entry/cogat-says-31-trucks-carrying-food-entered-northern-gaza/ ; https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1762790854014447890

[21] https://twitter.com/kann_news/status/1762715067995361619

[22] https://sputnikarabic dot ae/20240228/%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B3%D9%83%D9%88-%D8%AA%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B6%D9%8A%D9%81-%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%A7-%D9%81%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B7%D9%8A%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A7-%D9%85%D8%B4%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A7-%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%B4-%D8%AA%D8%B4%D9%83%D9%8A%D9%84-%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%85%D9%88%D8%AD%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF%D8%A9---1086476579.html

[23] https://ria dot ru/20231026/khamas-1905438005.html

[24] https://t.me/darebmojahden/4481

[25] https://www.cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news-02-2... https://www.jpost dot com/breaking-news/article-789348 ; https://www.timesofisrael dot com/liveblog_entry/hamas-fatah-officials-to-meet-in-moscow-for-talks-on-potential-unity-government-gaza-reconstruction/

[26] https://www.timesofisrael dot com/liveblog_entry/pa-foreign-minister-says-hamas-knows-it-cannot-be-in-new-technocratic-government ; https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/pa-minister-no-miracles-exp...

[27] https://ria dot ru/20231026/khamas-1905438005.html

[28] https://twitter.com/BarakRavid/status/1762893480605495434

[29] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/details-40-day-gaza-truce-draf...

[30] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/details-40-day-gaza-truce-draf...

[31] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/details-40-day-gaza-truce-draf...

[32] https://twitter.com/BarakRavid/status/1762894290752090482

[33] https://twitter.com/GLZRadio/status/1762931174026908035

[34] https://t.me/sarayaps/17504

[35] https://t.me/sarayaps/17500; https://t.me/sarayaps/17501 ; https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1762730765408747889

[36] https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5857; https://t.me/sarayajneen/1196; https://... https://t.me/QudsN/376197

[37] https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1686; https://twitter.com/manniefabian/sta...

[38] https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1686

[39] https://twitter.com/manniefabian/status/1762875173424767487

[40] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/lebanons-hezbollah-will-halt-f...

[41] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-update-february-26-2024; ...

[42] https://almadapaper dot net/view.php?cat=307671

[43] https://media.defense.gov/2023/Nov/09/2003338020/-1/-1/1/OIR_Q4_SEP2023_...

[44] https://media.defense.gov/2023/Nov/09/2003338020/-1/-1/1/OIR_Q4_SEP2023_...

[45] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-february-20-2024

[46] https://shafaq dot com/en/Iraq-News/Iraq-s-Federal-Court-rejects-lawsuit-challenging-nomination-for-Parliament-Speaker

[47] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-january-30-2024

[48] https://www.mehrnews dot com/news/6039819

[49] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/12/09/3046161/

[50] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-update-february-12-2024#_e...

[51] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-update-january-8-2024

[52] https://apnews.com/article/iran-bombing-ringleader-tajikistan-4dec3cf4b1...

[53] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/en/news/2024/02/28/3046346

[54] https://presstv dot ir/Detail/2024/02/28/720950/Iran-launch-research-satellite-Pars-1-orbit--Issa-Zarepour

[55] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/04/russia-iran-...

[56] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/irans-revolutionary-guards-put... https://www.presstv dot ir/Detail/2024/01/28/719015/Iran-satellites-orbit

[57] https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Pivot-to-Offense-How-Iran...

[58] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/en/news/2020/07/29/2317175

[59] https://www.centcom.mil/MEDIA/PRESS-RELEASES/Press-Release-View/Article/...

[60] https://www.reuters.com/world/german-warship-part-eu-red-sea-mission-sho...

[61] https://www.reuters.com/world/german-warship-part-eu-red-sea-mission-sho...

[62] https://twitter.com/alsyasiah/status/1762569385850384538?s=61&t=qbvsc37J...