UA-69458566-1

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, December 31, 2023

Nicole Wolkov, Christina Harward, Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, and Frederick W. Kagan

December 31, 2023, 5:10pm ET 

Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Click here to see ISW’s 3D control of terrain topographic map of Ukraine. Use of a computer (not a mobile device) is strongly recommended for using this data-heavy tool.

Click here to access ISW’s archive of interactive time-lapse maps of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These maps complement the static control-of-terrain map that ISW produces daily by showing a dynamic frontline. ISW will update this time-lapse map archive monthly.

Note: ISW and CTP will not publish a campaign assessment (or maps) tomorrow, January 1, in observance of the New Year holiday. Coverage will resume on Tuesday, January 2.

Note: The data cut-off for this product was 12:45pm ET on December 31. ISW will cover subsequent reports in the January 2 Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used his annual New Year's address on December 31 to concretize Russian ideological priorities for 2024, notably omitting any mentions of the war in Ukraine and instead focusing on setting ideological conditions for the upcoming year. In stark contrast to last year's New Year's address, wherein Putin addressed the nation at the headquarters of the Southern Military District surrounded by uniformed military personnel and talked explicitly about Russia's goals in Ukraine, Putin's 2023 address shows him standing alone against the backdrop of the Kremlin, without a single mention of the "special military operation."[1] Putin instead opted to very briefly thank Russian military personnel for fighting for "truth and justice," and otherwise focused on emphasizing Russian national unity.[2] Putin also stated that 2024 will be the "Year of the Family," emphasizing that the Russian family is the backbone of "the multinational people of Russia," and that Russia is "one big country, one big family."

Putin has in recent weeks frequently discussed Russia's continued maximalist intentions for the war in Ukraine, and Putin likely sought to set more domestically-oriented ideological conditions during his New Year's speech.[3] Putin's invocation of 2024 as the "Year of the Family," as well as his emphasis on Russian "multinationalism," further serve to clearly delineate the Kremlin's ideological line going into 2024, orienting domestic policy around the preservation of traditional Russian family values and the protection of Russian multinationalism, which both fit into Putin's wider ideology of a Russian World (Russkiy Mir) inclusive of groups within and beyond Russia.[4] ISW has recently assessed that Putin is trying to re-establish the conception of the Russian World as the backbone of Russian domestic and foreign policy, and the 2023 New Year's address identifies Russian families and Russian multinationalism as pillars of this concretized Russian World.[5] The Kremlin's conceptions of the Russian World will undoubtedly impact Russian administrative, bureaucratic, and sociocultural priorities in occupied Ukraine, as well as military goals on the battlefield in the year to come.

Russian forces conducted another series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of December 29 to 30 and on December 31, underscoring a notable recent increase in the percentage of Russian Shahed-136/131 drones penetrating or avoiding Ukrainian air defenses. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that Russian forces struck Kharkiv City with six S-300 missiles and launched 49 Shahed drones primarily at Ukrainian frontline positions as well as civilian, military, and infrastructure facilities in Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Zaporizhia oblasts on the night of December 30 to 31.[6] Ukrainian military sources reported that Russian forces launched 12 missiles at targets in Ukraine on December 31, an unspecified number of which struck civilian infrastructure in Kharkiv and Donetsk oblasts.[7] The Ukrainian Air Force reported that Ukrainian forces shot down 21 of the Shahed drones, a notably lower rate of interceptions for Ukrainian air defenses than ISW has previously observed.[8] Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat noted that Russian strikes on Ukrainian frontline positions with Shahed drones are “peculiar,” and it is possible that the lower interception rate is a result of Russian forces targeting frontline areas that have less air defense coverage or coverage less optimized for intercepting drones than population centers in the rear.[9] Ukrainian air defenses similarly had a lower-than-usual interception rate when Ukrainian forces shot down five out of 10 Shahed drones on December 30 and 27 out of 36 Shahed drones on December 29.[10] Russian milbloggers claimed on December 29 that Russian forces launched Shaheds that are harder to detect because they are painted black and partially absorb radio signals.[11] Ihnat previously stated on November 25 that Russian forces are beginning to use black paint and carbon fiber materiel on Shahed drones to complicate the work of Ukrainian air defense systems.[12] It is unclear if adaptations to the Shahed drones are decreasing the Ukrainians’ ability to intercept the drones or if the apparent trend in the decreased Ukrainian interception rate will continue.

Russian forces, particularly Russian airborne (VDV) Forces, are reportedly suffering heavy losses in simultaneous infantry-heavy Russian offensive operations on multiple fronts. A Russian milblogger claimed on December 31 that units of the Russian VDV forces are suffering heavy losses and are unable to rest and recover.[13] The milblogger claimed that experienced and trained VDV contract servicemen (kontraktniki) form a lower proportion of the VDV's personnel, and that the VDV has suffered high losses amongst experienced members of the command cadre that had previously made up the core of the VDV forces. Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets assessed on December 31 that elements of the newly formed 104th VDV Division, particularly its 328th and 337th VDV Regiments, will have to withdraw from the Krynky area in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast for rest and replenishment after a month of almost continuous fighting in the area.[14] The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) assessed on December 14 that elements of the 104th VDV Division likely suffered exceptionally heavy losses near Krynky due to inadequate air and artillery support and the inexperience of many of its personnel.[15] VDV Commander Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky implied on December 23 that the Russian military command is deploying new VDV officers and troops directly from graduation from initial training to the frontlines without having them complete pre-combat training.[16] Teplinsky stated that some recent graduates of the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School will join the 104th Division in the Kherson direction.[17]

The high casualty rate, particularly among units such as the VDV that were considered elite before 2022, is largely a reflection of the fact that the Russian military command has chosen to pursue simultaneous offensive operations along the entire frontline, often prioritizing marginal gains at the cost of disproportionate losses. The UK MoD stated on December 30 that “the average daily number of Russian casualties in Ukraine has risen by almost 300 during the course of 2023” and that if the current casualty rate continues Russian forces will have lost over half a million personnel total in Ukraine by the end of 2024.[18] A declassified US intelligence assessment reportedly shared with Congress on December 12 stated that Russian forces have lost 315,000 personnel since the beginning of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.[19] The current tempo and style of Russian offensives in Ukraine are reflective of these estimated casualty rates. Russian forces have conducted multiple waves of mass mechanized assaults and infantry-led assaults to capture Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, since October 10 despite heavy personnel losses, for example, and have rushed untrained VDV elements to defend against Ukrainian ground operations in the east bank of Kherson Oblast, where they have also taken heavy losses.[20] The Russian military leadership has undertaken extensive force generation measures as part of efforts to offset manpower losses, however, including partial mobilization since September 2022 and ongoing crypto-mobilization efforts.[21] The current casualty rate should not be taken as permanent—the Russian military command could change the tempo and pace of offensive operations or take time to reconstitute its forces for more effective future offensive operations. Ukraine's Western partners must guard against complacency when assessing Russian losses and operational failures in Ukraine, as ISW has previously assessed.[22]

A prominent Kremlin-affiliated Russian milblogger argued that ethnic Russians do not have enough domestic power in Russia while reiterating a common Russian information operation aimed at erasing Ukrainian identity. The milblogger claimed on December 31 that the illegal Russian annexation of occupied Luhansk Oblast as the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), occupied Donetsk Oblast as the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), and occupied Crimea as the Republic of Crimea created three new republics that are specifically for “ethnic Russians.”[23] The milblogger argued that ethnic Russians do not have enough domestic power because there was not a republic dedicated to ethnic Russians prior to Russia‘s illegal annexation of the LNR, DNR and Crimea. The milblogger claimed that Russia has many republics dedicated to providing “statehood” to ethnic minorities such as the republics of Tatarstan, Karelia, and Dagestan.[24] The milblogger claimed that Russians instead have “territories,” likely referring to other designations for Russian federal subjects such as krais and oblasts. Russian republics, generally named after the ethnic minority inhabiting the area, are nominally allowed under Russian law to exercise more administrative autonomy than other Russian federal subjects.[25] The milblogger argued that Russia needs more "ethnic Russian" republics to promote the interests of ethnic Russians, reflecting the Russian pro-war ultranationalist community’s wider objective to eliminate non-Russian culture from Russian society. The milblogger’s argument rests on the long-running Russian information operation denying the existence of Ukrainian identity by falsely claiming that Ukrainians are ethnic Russians.[26] The milblogger’s argument also attributes coherence to DNR and LNR governance where ISW has consistently observed administrative disorganization and ineptitude.[27]

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin used his annual New Year's address on December 31 to concretize Russian ideological priorities for 2024, notably omitting any mentions of the war in Ukraine and instead focusing on setting ideological conditions for the upcoming year.
  • Russian forces conducted another series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of December 29 to 30 and on December 31, underscoring a notable recent increase in the percentage of Russian Shahed-136/131 drones penetrating or avoiding Ukrainian air defenses.
  • Russian forces, particularly Russian airborne (VDV) Forces, are reportedly suffering heavy losses in simultaneous infantry-heavy Russian offensive operations on multiple fronts.
  • A prominent Kremlin-affiliated Russian milblogger argued that ethnic Russians do not have enough domestic power in Russia while reiterating a common Russian information operation aimed at erasing Ukrainian identity.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces conducted positional engagements along the entire line of conduct, but there were no confirmed map changes on December 31.
  • Russian Presidential Administration First Deputy Head Sergei Kiriyenko is spearheading efforts to consolidate sociocultural control of occupied areas of Ukraine via the information space.

 

We do not report in detail on Russian 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 will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and the Ukrainian population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn Russian 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.

  • Russian Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine (comprised of two subordinate main efforts)
  • Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and encircle northern Donetsk Oblast
  • Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
  • Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis
  • Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
  • Russian Technological Adaptations
  • Activities in Russian-occupied areas
  • Russian Information Operations and Narratives

Russian Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine

Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Luhansk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and northern Donetsk Oblast)

Ukrainian forces reportedly advanced southeast of Kupyansk and continued positional engagements with Russian forces along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on December 31. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces counterattacked near Orlyanka (southeast of Kupyansk) and achieved partial success, although ISW has not observed confirmation of this claim.[28] Russian and Ukrainian sources stated that positional fighting continued northeast of Kupyansk near Synkivka, southwest of Svatove near Makiivka, and southwest of Kreminna near Dibrova and the Serebryanske forest area.[29] Ukrainian Ground Forces Command Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Volodymyr Fityo stated that Ukrainian forces are conducting an active defense in the Kupyansk, Lyman, and Bakhmut directions and are conducting ground attacks when possible.[30]

 

Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian and Ukrainian forces continued positional engagements near Bakhmut on December 31, but there were no changes to the frontline in this area. Russian and Ukrainian sources stated that positional fighting continued northwest of Bakhmut near Bohdanivka and southwest of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka and Andriivka.[31] Elements of the Russian 58th Spetsnaz Battalion (1st Donetsk People’s Republic [DNR] Army Corps) reportedly continue to operate in the Bakhmut direction.[32] Elements of the Russian “Sever-V” (Volunteer Assault Corps) reportedly continue operating on the northern flank of Bakhmut.[33]

 

Russian and Ukrainian forces continued positional engagements near Avdiivka on December 31, but there were no changes to the frontline in this area. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces northwest of Avdiivka control about one third of Stepove and are advancing toward Novobakhmutivka and Berdychi and making progress towards the 9th Kvartal area on the southwestern outskirts of Avdiivka.[34] Russian and Ukrainian forces continued positional engagements northwest of Avdiivka near Stepove and the Avdiivka Coke Plant and southwest of Avdiivka near Pervomaiske, Nevelske and Sieverne.[35] Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun reported that Russian forces are increasing the number of reserves in the Avdiivka and Marinka directions.[36]

 

Russian forces continued ground attacks west and southwest of Donetsk City on December 31, but there were no changes in the frontline in this area. Russian and Ukrainian sources stated that Russian forces continued positional engagements near Marinka, Krasnohorivka, and Heorhiivka (both west of Donetsk City), and Novomykhailivka (southwest of Donetsk City).[37] Ukrainian Kurakhove City Military Administration Head Roman Padun stated that Russian forces conducted strikes on Kurakhove (west of Donetsk City) with S-300 missiles and Uragan MLRS rockets on December 31.[38]

 

Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)

Russian forces conducted relatively more ground attacks in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area on December 31 than in previous days, but there were no confirmed changes to the frontline in this area. Ukrainian and Russian sources reported positional engagements near Urozhaine (south of Velyka Novosilka) and Pryyutne (southwest of Velyka Novosilka).[39] A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces are focusing on conducting attacks west of Staromayorske (south of Velyka Novosilka) and along the Rivnopil-Pryyutne line southwest of Velyka Novosilka.[40] The same milblogger previously claimed on December 29 that Russian forces became more active in this area, which generally accords with increased Ukrainian and Russian reports of positional engagements in the area.[41] Russian forces may be re-starting attacks here in order to draw some Ukrainian forces away from defensive operations in Avdiivka, but the current rate of Russian attacks in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area is not at a scale beyond small positional engagements. Elements of the 143rd Motorized Rifle Regiment (5th Combined Arms Army [CAA], Eastern Military District [EMD]) are reportedly operating north of Pryytune.[42]

 

Russian forces continued efforts to regain previously lost positions in western Zaporizhia Oblast on December 31, but there were no confirmed changes to the frontline in this area. Russian and Ukrainian sources reported positional engagements near Robotyne, west of Verbove (east of Robotyne), and east of Kopani (northwest of Robotyne).[43] Russian sources reported intense artillery fire and counterbattery combat by both Ukrainian and Russian forces in this area.[44] One milblogger claimed that Russian forces have made "serious progress" in western Zaporizhia Oblast over the past week, and that the situation for Ukrainian forces is particularly difficult west of Robotyne and near Novofedorivka (northeast of Verbove).[45] Elements of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division (58th CAA, Southern Military District [SMD]), including the 1st Battalion of the 71st Motorized Rifle Regiment and elements of the 291st Motorized Rifle Regiment, are reportedly operating in the area.[46]

 

Positional engagements continued on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast on December 31, but there were no confirmed changes to the frontline in this area.[47] A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attacked towards Poyma (northeast of Oleshky) and that Russian forces unsuccessfully counterattacked within Krynky.[48] Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets stated that the continued Ukrainian presence on the east bank has forced the command of the Russian "Dnepr" Grouping of Forces to redistribute artillery fire missions to provide increased cover for Russian troops fighting on the east bank, as opposed to striking Ukrainian infrastructure on the west (right) bank.[49]

 

Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)

See topline text.

Russian Technological Adaptations (Russian objective: Introduce technological innovations to optimize systems for use in Ukraine)

Russian Deputy Chairperson of the State Duma Committee on Defense and commander of the “Grom Kaskad” unmanned aviation brigade Denis Sablin claimed on December 30 that the range of Russian first-person view (FPV) drones has increased to 32 kilometers, whereas Sablin claimed Ukrainian FPV drones have a maximum range of 22 kilometers.[50]

Activities in Russian-occupied areas (Russian objective: Consolidate administrative control of annexed areas; forcibly integrate Ukrainian citizens into Russian sociocultural, economic, military, and governance systems)

Russian Presidential Administration First Deputy Head Sergei Kiriyenko is spearheading efforts to consolidate sociocultural control of occupied areas of Ukraine via the information space. Zaporizhia Oblast occupation governor Yevgeny Balitsky stated that he met with Kiriyenko on December 31 during a meeting with "cultural workers" in occupied Zaporizhia Oblast.[51] Kiriyenko and Balitsky reportedly discussed the development of Russian-led cultural programs in occupied Zaporizhia Oblast for 2024, including the creation of a "New Regions" media conglomerate, which will work on media projects in occupied Ukraine with support from the Russian federal government. Russian media reported in June that Russian occupation authorities began efforts to reformat the information space using unified and centralized media agencies.[52]

Russian Information Operations and Narratives

Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti published an interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on December 31 wherein he promoted a Russian information operation alleging that Western actors are causing instability in Serbia.[53] The Kremlin will likely continue to exploit protests against Serbian President Alexander Vucic in an effort to drive a wedge between Serbia and the West.[54]

Russian sources continue to promote Kremlin narratives that are part of a wider effort to set conditions to justify potential future provocations with Baltic and Scandinavian NATO members. A prominent milblogger, whom the Russian MoD and Kremlin have previously awarded for his service to the Russian Armed Forces, amplified a claim on December 30 in which another Russian milblogger complained that Estonia and Finland are attempting to provoke a crisis in the region and deprive Russia of its navigational rights in the Gulf of Finland.[55] The Kremlin has recently promoted increasingly aggressive rhetorical and military posturing towards Finland which is cause for concern about Russia’s long-term aims.[56]

Significant activity in Belarus (Russian efforts to increase its military presence in Belarus and further integrate Belarus into Russian-favorable frameworks and Wagner Group activity in Belarus)

Nothing significant to report.

Note: ISW does not receive any classified material from any source, uses only publicly available information, and draws extensively on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western reporting and social media as well as commercially available satellite imagery and other geospatial data as the basis for these reports. References to all sources used are provided in the endnotes of each update.


[1] https://aif dot ru/politics/russia/novogodnee_obrashchenie_vladimira_putina_polnyy_tekst_vystupleniya_i_video; https://isw.pub/UkrWar12312022; https://t.me/bbcrussian/58650

[2] https://aif dot ru/politics/russia/novogodnee_obrashchenie_vladimira_putina_polnyy_tekst_vystupleniya_i_video

[3] https://isw.pub/UkrWar121923; https://isw.pub/UkrWar121423

[4] https://isw.pub/UkrWar122023; https://isw.pub/UkrWar121423; https://isw.pub/UkrWar112823

[5] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign...

[6] https://t.me/kpszsu/9170

[7] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02MzRgscyNQvwXNBVHqt... https://suspilne dot media/651228-masovani-obstrili-kurahovogo-raketnim-udarom-poskodzena-likarna/ ; https://www.facebook.com/romanpadun.kuraxove/posts/pfbid0WaeJhQyP4qXJCgg...

[8] https://t.me/kpszsu/9170

[9] https://armyinform.com dot ua/2023/12/31/rosiyany-zminyly-akczent-atak-bpla-yurij-ignat/

[10] https://isw.pub/UkrWar123023 ; https://isw.pub/UkrWar122923

[11] https://t.me/DnevnikDesantnika/5885 ; https://t.me/anb_028/20469 ; https://t.me/dva_majors/31802

[12] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyQCPabjJKQ&ab_channel=%D0%9F%D0%BE%D0%B...

[13] https://t.me/voenkorKotenok/53032

[14] https://t.me/zvizdecmanhustu/1532

[15] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign...

[16] https://isw.pub/UkrWar122323

[17] https://isw.pub/UkrWar122323

[18] https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1741112672668594346?ref_src=twsrc%5...

[19] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign...

[20] https://isw.pub/UkrWar120723 ; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgr...

[21] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign...

[22] https://isw.pub/UkrWar122223 ; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign...

[23] https://t.me/wargonzo/17328

[24] https://t.me/wargonzo/17328

[25] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5a80956940f0b62305b8bffb/... ru/10003000/10003000-5.htm

[26] https://isw.pub/UkrWar121723 ; https://isw.pub/UkrWar112823

[27] https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-ass...

[28] https://t.me/wargonzo/17312

[29] https://t.me/mod_russia/34193 ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid04zNQSC1XSD4LiAecqKJ... ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02EziBki8dXHsedXxFKx... https://t.me/wargonzo/17312 ; https://t.me/mod_russia/34193 ; https://t.me/mod_russia/34193

[30] https://armyinform.com dot ua/2023/12/31/na-shodi-vorog-bezuspishno-namagayetsya-stvoryty-spryyatlyvi-umovy-dlya-nastupu/

[31] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02MzRgscyNQvwXNBVHqt... https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid04zNQSC1XSD4LiAecqKJ... ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02EziBki8dXHsedXxFKx...

[32] https://t.me/RVvoenkor/59376

[33] https://t.me/RVvoenkor/59377

[34] https://t.me/RVvoenkor/59369

[35] https://t.me/wargonzo/17312 ; https://t.me/RVvoenkor/59369 ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid04zNQSC1XSD4LiAecqKJ... ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02EziBki8dXHsedXxFKx... ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02MzRgscyNQvwXNBVHqt...

[36] https://suspilne dot media/651372-situacia-v-marinci-ta-vtrati-rosijskoi-armii-na-shodi-ukraini/

[37] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02MzRgscyNQvwXNBVHqt... ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid04zNQSC1XSD4LiAecqKJ... ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02EziBki8dXHsedXxFKx...

[38] https://www.facebook.com/romanpadun.kuraxove/posts/pfbid0WaeJhQyP4qXJCgg...

[39] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02MzRgscyNQvwXNBVHqt...

[40] https://t.me/wargonzo/17336

[41] https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-ass... https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-ass...

[42] https://t.me/Vmsd127/169 ; https://t.me/dva_majors/31983

[43] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02MzRgscyNQvwXNBVHqt...

[44] https://t.me/vrogov/13596; https://t.me/DnevnikDesantnika/5950

[45] https://t.me/wargonzo/17336

[46] https://t.me/batalyon15/3479; https://t.me/vrogov/13591; https://twitt...

[47] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02MzRgscyNQvwXNBVHqt... https://t.me/wargonzo/17336

[48] https://t.me/wargonzo/17312

[49] https://t.me/zvizdecmanhustu/1533

[50] https://t.me/tass_agency/224820 ; https://tass dot ru/armiya-i-opk/19659449

[51] https://uk.tgstat.com/channel/@BalitskyEV/2321

[52] https://www.vedomosti dot ru/politics/articles/2023/06/09/979430-rabota-osnovnih-smi-dnr-lnr-hersonskoi-i-zaporozhskoi-oblastei-budet-sistematizirovana

[53] https://ria dot ru/20231231/lavrov-1919176752.html ; https://t.me/MID_Russia/34037 ; https://isw.pub/UkrWar122623

[54] https://isw.pub/UkrWar122623

[55] https://t.me/rybar/55519

[56] https://isw.pub/UkrWar122623 ; https://isw.pub/UkrWar121923 ; https:...

Iran Update, December 31, 2023

Ashka Jhaveri, Amin Soltani, Johanna Moore, Peter Mills, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm EST 

The Critical Threats Project and the Institute for the Study of War will not publish an Iran Update (Israel-Hamas War) on January 1, 2024, due to the Near Year holiday. We will resume publication of the Iran Update (Israel-Hamas War) on January 2, 2024. 

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.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Israeli forces advanced into Beit Lahiya for clearing operations in the northern Gaza Strip. Palestinian militias attempted to defend against Israeli forces operating in Tuffah and al Daraj in Gaza City. Palestinian militias did not claim any attacks in Jabalia City and Sheikh Radwan neighborhood.
  2. Palestinian militias are clashing with Israeli forces in al Bureij in the Central Governorate of the Gaza Strip.
  3. Israeli forces continued clearing operations in Khan Younis for the fourth straight week as Palestinian militia fighters tried to defend against Israeli advances. Palestinian militias have sustained almost daily attacks on Israeli forces in Khan Younis since Israel forces advanced into the southern Gaza Strip in early December.
  4. Israel has withdrawn five IDF brigades from the Gaza Strip, which is consistent with Israeli forces transitioning to a third phase of operations. The third phase will include the end of major combat operations, a “reduction in forces” in the Gaza Strip, the release of reservists, a “transition to targeted raids,” and the establishment of a security buffer zone within the Gaza Strip.
  5. An unspecified Israeli intelligence officer told the Economist that most of Hamas’ command structure is “gone” and that Hamas is no longer operating as a military organization. CTP-ISW assesses that at least three of 30 Hamas battalions in the five brigades are combat ineffective, at least eight battalions are degraded, and at least 12 battalions are currently under intense IDF pressure.
  6. An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported that IDF sources believe the intensification of fighting on the ground in the Gaza Strip has contributed to a reduction in Palestinian rocket capabilities. Palestinian militias did not claim any indirect fire attacks into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
  7. Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters in six locations across the West Bank.
  8. Iranian-backed fighters, including Lebanese Hezbollah, conducted four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. LH Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem stated that LH will not allow displaced Israeli civilians to return to their homes in northern Israel until Israel halts its military operations in the Gaza Strip.
  9. Iranian-backed militants conducted two attacks on US forces stationed at Conoco Mission Support Site and al Omar oil field on December 30. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—conducted two attacks targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria on December 31.
  10. Houthi fighters conducted two attacks on the MV Maersk Hangzhou container ship in the southern Red Sea. The Houthis likely focused on attacking a Maersk-operated vessel in particular because Maersk announced that it would resume its operations in the Red Sea on December 24. These Houthi attacks are part of a broader regional escalation that Iran is leading against the United States and Israel.
  11. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian discussed the Israel-Hamas war with senior Houthi official Mohammad Abdul Salam in Tehran.

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.

Israeli forces advanced into Beit Lahiya for clearing operations in the northern Gaza Strip. An Israeli Brigade Combat Team identified three Hamas fighters inside a building and directed an airstrike at their position in Beit Lahiya, according to an IDF report on December 31.[1] The al Qassem Brigades—the militant wing of Hamas—intercepted an Israeli reconnaissance drone in Beit Lahiya on December 31.[2] Israeli forces initially advanced into the Gaza Strip west of Beit Lahiya in late October.[3] Commercially available satellite imagery captured on December 31 shows recently flattened terrain in Beit Lahiya City and north of the city, which suggests that Israeli tanks or bulldozers recently began operating in the area. The Wall Street Journal published a map of the tunnel system that Hamas has created below the Gaza Strip based on data from 2014, which includes an extensive tunnel network in Beit Lahiya.[4] Palestinian militia fighters have used tunnel shafts to maneuver through the strip and to ambush Israeli forces.[5] The IDF has located about 1,500 tunnel shafts and routes in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the ground operation in the Gaza Strip, according to an IDF report on December 19.[6]

Palestinian militias attempted to defend against Israeli forces operating in Tuffah and al Daraj in Gaza City. The al Qassem Brigades and al Quds Brigades—the militant wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—claimed several attacks on Israeli forces operating in the neighborhoods.[7] The al Qassem Brigades claimed to detonate a Shawaz explosively formed penetrator (EFP) in the neighborhoods, targeting five Israeli vehicles.[8] EFPs are particularly lethal improvised explosive devices designed to penetrate armored vehicles, such as main battle tanks.[9]

Palestinian militias did not claim any attacks in Jabalia City and Sheikh Radwan neighborhood on December 31. CTP-ISW assessed on December 22 that Hamas’ Jabalia al Balad Battalion is degraded and that the Radwan Battalion remains combat effective.[10] Both battalions are facing active and intense IDF pressure, as Israeli forces continue advancing into these areas.[11] Palestinian militias have claimed nearly daily attacks in Sheikh Radwan neighborhood since the humanitarian pause expired on December 1, which suggests that it is one of the remaining areas where they maintain significant defensive infrastructure. The absence of Palestinian attack claims does not necessarily indicate that Hamas lacks the capability to launch attacks in the area, however. Palestinian militias have reported losing contact with specific units for short periods of time in the Gaza Strip, which could have happened in Jabalia City and Sheikh Radwan neighborhood.[12]

Israeli forces continued executing tasks consistent with holding operations in some areas of Gaza City. CTP-ISW reported on December 20 that Israeli forces are transitioning from clearing operations to holding operations in some areas of the northern Gaza Strip.[13] The hold phase is defined by a decreased level of violence but still requires holding forces to engage and eliminate enemy forces and infrastructure to provide security.[14] Palestinian militia attacks in these areas demonstrate that the militias have retained some forces capable of targeting Israeli operations.

  • Israeli forces searched the homes of Palestinian militia fighters in al Shaati refugee camp in northern Gaza City.[15] Unspecified Palestinian fighters had planted IEDs in the vicinity of a kindergarten in advance of the arrival of Israeli forces.
  • Israeli forces conducted an airstrike targeting a suspicious vehicle that Palestinian fighters were driving toward Israeli ground elements in southern Gaza City.[16]
  • The al Quds Brigades detonated a tunnel entrance rigged with explosives targeting Israeli infantrymen in Shujaiya neighborhood, where Israeli forces have been executing tasks consistent with holding operations for over a week.[17]

Palestinian militias are clashing with Israeli forces in al Bureij in the Central Governorate of the Gaza Strip. The al Qassem Brigades published footage on December 31 of its forces moving through buildings to launch rocket propelled grenades (RPG) at Israeli tanks—a tactic that the militia has employed heavily across the Gaza Strip.[18] The IDF said that it expanded clearing operations in Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on December 26 to target Hamas’ Bureij Battalion.[19] The IDF Arabic-language media spokesperson repeated on December 31 evacuation orders covering areas of the central Gaza Strip.[20] Residents of al Bureij refugee camp, Badr, northern coast, al Nuzha, al Zahra, al Buraq, al Salam, al Fayha, al Basma, al Bawadi, al Rawdah, and al Safah must move to shelters in Deir al Balah, according to the IDF evacuation orders.[21]

Israeli forces continued clearing operations in Khan Younis for the fourth straight week as Palestinian militia fighters tried to defend against Israeli advances. The IDF reported on December 31 that an airborne brigade deployed to Khan Younis in recent days after two months of intense fighting in the northern Gaza Strip.[22] The brigade joined special operations, armored, engineering, and air elements in clearing Khan Younis Governorate of militia infrastructure, such as observation outposts, anti-tank positions, and weapons depots.[23] Palestinian fighters emerged from a tunnel shaft in one encounter and attempted to fire RPGs before Israeli forces returned fire.[24] Israeli air and armored elements killed the remaining Palestinian fighters.[25] The IDF also destroyed unspecified militia infrastructure belonging to the commanders of Hamas’ South Khan Younis Battalion, one of five in the governorate.[26]

Palestinian militias have sustained almost daily attacks on Israeli forces in Khan Younis since Israeli forces advanced into the southern Gaza Strip in early December. The al Qassem Brigades claimed three attacks on Israeli forces using mortars and anti-tank RPGs.[27] The National Resistance Brigades—the militant wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)—claimed to target an Israeli tank with an unspecified explosive device north of Khan Younis.[28] The al Nasser Salah al Din Brigades—the militant wing of the Popular Resistance Committees—claimed that its fighters targeted an Israeli tank with a tandem-charged anti-tank rocket in Khan Younis.[29] The al Qassem Brigades and National Resistance Brigades claimed separate mortar attacks on Israeli forces east of Khuzaa, where the IDF began clearing operations on December 27.[30]

Israel has withdrawn five IDF brigades from the Gaza Strip, which is consistent with Israeli forces transitioning to a third phase of operations. The IDF confirmed the withdrawals and that it will include some reservists.[31] Some of these brigades had deployed to and fought in the northern Gaza Strip.[32] Three of the five brigades are training brigades, which are responsible for training officers, tank personnel, and non-commissioned officers during peacetime.[33] Israel’s public broadcaster reported on December 23 that the IDF will transition to the third phase of its ground operation in the Gaza Strip in the “coming weeks.”[34] The report said that the third phase will include the end of major combat operations, a “reduction in forces” in the Gaza Strip, the release of reservists, a “transition to targeted raids,” and the establishment of a security buffer zone within the Gaza Strip.

An unspecified Israeli intelligence officer told the Economist on December 30 that most of Hamas’ command structure is “gone” and that Hamas is no longer operating as a military organization.[35] The officer noted that Hamas maintains many fighters who have reverted to guerilla tactics.

CTP-ISW assesses that at least three of 30 Hamas battalions in the five brigades are combat ineffective, at least eight battalions are degraded, and at least 12 battalions are currently under intense IDF pressure.[36] Hamas has a conventional military order of battle but has fought this war and historically as an irregular (guerilla) force. Hamas very likely retains a deep bench of experienced military commanders.[37] Israeli forces are still actively clearing in some parts of the northern Gaza Strip in addition to the Gaza Strip’s Central and Khan Younis governorates, where Hamas maintains combat effective units. Combat effectiveness measures a unit’s ability to perform its mission; a unit is combat ineffective when it is no longer able to complete its mission.[38] The IDF reported on December 26 that all four battalions in Hamas’ Central Gazan Brigade have sustained “some damage” but are “largely functioning.”[39] Hamas’ combat ineffective units are still capable of waging low-level warfare and reconstituting.

 

 

An Israeli Army Radio correspondent reported on December 31 that IDF sources believe the intensification of fighting on the ground in the Gaza Strip has contributed to a reduction in Palestinian rocket capabilities.[40] Palestinian militias did not claim any indirect fire attacks into Israel from the Gaza Strip on December 31. CTP-ISW initially assessed that Israeli clearing operations were likely degrading Hamas’ capacity to conduct indirect fire attacks into Israel from the Gaza Strip on December 12.[41]

The IDF estimates that the war will not completely reduce rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel, however. Israeli clearing operations are primarily focused on dismantling Hamas in the Gaza Strip.[42] The IDF noted that the success of their operations in the strip does not preclude a “lone terrorist” from conducting indirect fire attacks into Israel. Several Palestinian militias operating in the Gaza Strip maintain rocket arsenals and have claimed indirect fire attacks into Israel.[43]

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 in six locations across the West Bank on December 31.[44] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and one of its affiliated groups, the Tulkarm Rapid Response Battalion, claimed that they conducted IED and small arms attacks on Israeli forces around Tulkarm on December 30-31.[45] Unspecified Palestinian fighters threw IEDs at Israeli forces in Nablus, Tulkarm, and Jericho on December 31.[46] The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades separately claimed three small arms attacks on Israeli forces and settlements near Qalqilya and Nablus on December 30.[47] Unspecified Palestinian fighters fired small arms and threw Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces near Hebron on December 30.[48] Fatah organized a demonstration against Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip in Ramallah on December 31.[49]

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 fighters, including Lebanese Hezbollah (LH), conducted four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel on December 31. LH fired anti-tank guided missiles and other unspecified munitions toward three Israeli border positions.[50] Unspecified fighters separately launched rockets toward Metula on December 31.[51] The IDF Air Force conducted airstrikes on LH military infrastructure in Ramiya, southern Lebanon.[52] The IDF stated that LH uses villages along the border to facilitate attacks on Israeli border positions.[53]

LH Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem stated on December 31 that LH will not allow displaced Israeli civilians to return to their homes in northern Israel until Israel halts its military operations in the Gaza Strip.[54] Qassem stated that LH is in a state of war with Israel and that its forces along the border were positioned accordingly.[55] Qassem also warned that Israeli attacks harming Lebanese civilians would lead to a stronger but proportional response from LH.[56] Head of the Maronite Church Bechara Boutros al Rahi called for LH to withdraw its rocket units from civilian areas in southern Lebanon to avoid IDF retaliation.[57]

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

Iranian-backed militants conducted two attacks on US forces stationed at Conoco Mission Support Site and al Omar oil field on December 30.[58] The militants fired three drones at Conoco Mission Support Site and 14 rockets at al Omar oilfield, according to an unnamed US defense official.[59] The attack on Conoco is the largest barrage of rockets fired at US forces in a single attack that CTP-ISW has recorded since the Israel-Hamas war began, although it is possible that comparable or larger attacks have occurred and that such details have not been published. Syrian opposition media reported that Kataib Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Iraqi militias were responsible for the December 30 attacks.[60] CTP-ISW previously assessed that the Iranian-led Axis of Resistance may escalate further against US forces in the region in the coming days, especially around the four-year anniversary of the US killing former IRGC Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2024.[61] Iranian leaders have vowed to expel US forces from the region as part of their revenge for the United States killing Soleimani.[62] The IRGC Quds Force engaged senior Iranian-backed Iraqi militia and political leaders likely to discuss their military and political campaign to expel US forces on December 30, as CTP-ISW previously reported.[63]

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—conducted two attacks targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria on December 31. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed two separate drone attacks on US forces at Rmelan Landing Zone, Syria, and Erbil International Airport, Iraq.[64]

Kataib Hezbollah (KH) commemorated its fight against the United States in several posts on its Telegram page on December 31. KH claimed that the United States deployed military advisors to Iraq under false pretexts to reoccupy Iraq and reshape the Middle East according to Israeli interests.[65] KH also celebrated the fourth anniversary of the storming of the US Embassy in Baghdad on December 31, 2019, and 12th anniversary of the US troop withdrawal in 2011.[66] KH also applauded its fighters' continued dedication to removing the United States from Iraq.[67]

Houthi fighters conducted two attacks on the MV Maersk Hangzhou container ship in the southern Red Sea. Likely Houthi fighters conducted a missile attack on the ship on December 30.[68] The USS Gravely destroyer intercepted two anti-ship missiles targeting the Hangzhou, while responding to a distress call from the ship.[69] Four Houthi fast attack craft later approached the Hangzhou, firing on the container ship and attempting to board it.[70] The USS Gravely and USS Eisenhower aircraft carriers sent helicopters to the container ship and issued verbal messages to the Houthi boats, which then fired on the helicopters.[71] The helicopters returned fire in self-defense and sank three of the four Houthi boats, killing ten Houthi members.[72] The fourth Houthi boat fled the area.

Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree said that Houthi fighters had been performing their regular duties to provide security and stability in the Red Sea by preventing Israeli ships or ships en route to Israel from passing.[73] Saree accused the United States of attempting to expand the conflict into the Red Sea and warned other countries of being complicit to US efforts.[74] Saree’s statement notably quoted a Quranic verse that LH and the Islamic Resistance of Iraq regularly cite as justification for their attacks on the United States or Israel. The use of the passage across the Axis of Resistance members is likely meant to signal their unity to external actors, while framing their regional escalation as some kind of religious duty.

The Houthis likely focused on attacking a Maersk-operated vessel in particular because Maersk announced that it would resume its operations in the Red Sea on December 24.[75] CTP-ISW previously assessed that the Iranian and Houthi anti-shipping attack campaign is meant to demonstrate the capability and willingness of the Axis of Resistance to threaten multiple strategic maritime chokepoints across the Middle East. The Houthi framing that the anti-shipping attack campaign is meant to only prevent commercial traffic to Israel is inaccurate, as the Houthi attacks have targeted multiple ships with no immediate connection to Israel or Israeli interests. Maersk announced that it would again suspend its operations in the Red Sea—this time for 48 hours—on December 31.[76]

These Houthi attacks are part of a broader regional escalation that Iran is leading against the United States and Israel. This regional escalation is meant to achieve Iran’s broader regional ambitions rather than achieve any discrete effects vis-a-vis the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip. This Iran-led escalation includes the almost daily drone, missile, and rocket attacks that Iranian-backed militias have conducted against US forces in Iraq and Syria. Iran and its proxies and partners in the Axis of Resistance are framing falsely this escalation as a response to the Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip. Iran and its Axis of Resistance have a long history of threatening American servicemembers and international shipping prior to the war because it supports their grand strategic objectives in the Middle East. The current escalation is thus meant to help Iran attain regional hegemony, destroy the Israeli state, and expel US forces from the Middle East. The Israel-Hamas war provides informational cover to Iran and the Axis of Resistance, allowing them to misrepresent their long-standing campaigns as meant to support the Palestinian cause.

 

 

Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian discussed recent Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea during a phone call with his British counterpart, David Cameron, on December 31.[77] Abdollahian suggested that Houthi attacks on maritime traffic would continue so long as Israel continues its military operations in the Gaza Strip. Cameron stated that Iran bears responsibility for the Houthi attacks given its long-standing support for the Houthis. The Houthis have conducted an anti-shipping attack campaign around the Red Sea in recent weeks to disrupt commercial shipping to Israel and demonstrate both the willingness and capability of the Axis of Resistance to disrupt maritime traffic around strategic maritime chokepoints.[78]

Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian discussed the Israel-Hamas war with senior Houthi official Mohammad Abdul Salam in Tehran on December 31.[79] Ahmadian praised the Houthis for their support of the Palestinians against Israeli “aggression.”

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met with the family of Qassem Soleimani on December 31.[80] Khamenei praised how Soleimani strengthened the Axis of Resistance and called on the IRGC Quds Force to further strengthen it. IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami and IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani attended the meeting. IRGC-affiliated media emphasized that Khamenei’s insistence on continuing to strengthen the Axis of Resistance was directed at Ghaani.[81]

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met with the family of IRGC Brigadier General Razi Mousavi, whom Israel killed in an airstrike in Syria, on December 31.[82] Raisi threatened that Israel “would pay the price” for killing Mousavi. Western and anti-regime media have reported that Mousavi headed IRGC Quds Force Unit 2250, which manages Iranian weapons shipments to LH and Iranian-backed militias in Syria.[83] Senior Iranian military and political officials have attended Mousavi’s commemoration and funeral ceremonies in recent days, highlighting his prominence in the regime and its regional project.[84]

 


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[2] https://t.me/qassambrigades/29846; https://t.me/qassambrigades/29849

[3] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-november-4-2023

[4] https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/israel-hamas-war-biden/card/map-shows-l...

[5] https://twitter.com/GLZRadio/status/1733756968756510981; https://t.me/sarayaps/16880

[6] https://www.idf dot il/164023

[7] https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1148; https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1149; https://t.me/sarayaps/17117

[8] https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1149

[9] https://taskandpurpose.com/tech-tactics/efp-explosively-formed-penetrato...

[10] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/order-battle-hamas%E2%80%9...

[11] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/order-battle-hamas%E2%80%9...

[12] https://t.me/sarayaps/16947

[13] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-december-20-2023

[14] https://irp.fas.org/doddir/army/fm3-24.pdf

[15] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1741350811840528536

[16] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1741350833768243301

[17] https://twitter.com/GLZRadio/status/1738264100071723440; https://t.me/sarayaps/17116

[18] https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1152

[19] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-december-26-2023

[20] https://twitter.com/AvichayAdraee/status/1741373286901043422

[21] https://twitter.com/AvichayAdraee/status/1741373286901043422

[22] https://www.idf dot il/168132

[23] https://www.idf dot il/168132

[24] https://www.idf dot il/168132

[25] https://www.idf dot il/168132

[26] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/order-battle-hamas%E2%80%9... ; https://www.idf dot il/168132

[27] https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1146 ; https://t.me/qassam1brigades/1150 ; https://t.me/qassambrigades/29845

[28] https://t.me/kataeb_moqawma/4029

[29] https://t.me/alwya2000/6156

[30] https://t.me/qassambrigades/29847 ; https://t.me/kataeb_moqawma/4031

[31] https://twitter.com/manniefabian/status/1741509504842273078 ; https://twitter.com/GLZRadio/status/1741503980427944111

[32] https://twitter.com/manniefabian/status/1722253475399225668 ; https://twitter.com/GLZRadio/status/1737141768473170371

[33] https://twitter.com/manniefabian/status/1741509504842273078 ; https://twitter.com/GLZRadio/status/1741503980427944111

[34] https://www.kan dot org.il/content/kan-news/defense/660419 ; https://www.haaretz dot com/israel-news/2023-12-22/ty-article/.premium/the-unbridgeable-gulf-between-israeli-politicians-rhetoric-and-the-reality-in-gaza/0000018c-8e1e-da31-adff-8e5eb1060000

[35] https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2023/12/30/israel-prepa...

[36] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/order-battle-hamas%E2%80%9...

[37] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/order-battle-hamas%E2%80%9...

[38] https://irp.fas.org/doddir/army/fm1-02-1.pdf

[39] https://twitter.com/manniefabian/status/1739697912701960660

[40] https://twitter.com/Doron_Kadosh/status/1741330619815149898

[41] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-december-12-2023

[42] https://twitter.com/Doron_Kadosh/status/1741330619815149898

[43] https://t.me/sarayaps/16886; https://t.me/kataeb_moqawma/3991; https:/... https://t.me/QudsN/338858 

[44] https://t.me/alredalsrey/520 https://t.me/QudsN/351534 ; https://t.me...

[45] https://t.me/QudsN/351542 ; https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/5412 ; https://...

[46] https://t.me/QudsN/351534 ; https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/17413...

[47] https://t.me/kataebaqsapalestine/2635 ; https://t.me/kataebaqsapalesti...

[48] https://t.me/QudsN/351384 ; https://t.me/QudsN/351434

[49] https://t.me/QudsN/351738

[50] https://t.me/C_Military1/43021 ; https://t.me/C_Military1/43019 ; ht...

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[53] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1741423656436113494

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[55] https://t.me/C_Military1/43010

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[58] https://twitter.com/JasonMBrodsky/status/1741182645952733322?s=20 ; https://twitter.com/Tammuz_Intel/status/1741184096229896426?s=20

[59] https://twitter.com/JenGriffinFNC/status/1741253072016302215?s=20

[60] https://x.com/OALD24/status/1741223175935930715?s=20

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[64] https://t.me/elamharbi/184 ; https://t.me/elamharbi/183

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[75] https://www.cnbc.com/2023/12/24/shipping-giant-maersk-prepares-to-resume...

[76] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/maersk-pauses-red-sea-sailings... ; https://x.com/staunovo/status/1741403895685902667?s=20 ; https://twitter.com/GLZRadio/status/1741399733342458283

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[78] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-update-december-23-2023 ; https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-update-december-16-2023

[79] https://www.javanonline dot ir/fa/news/1207417

[80] https://farsi.khamenei dot ir/photo-album?id=54778 ; https://www.farsnews dot ir/news/14021010000616; https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/10/10/3015088; https://defapress dot ir/fa/news/641722; https://www.irna dot ir/photo/85339148/; https://www.irna dot ir/news/85339123/; https://www.iribnews dot ir/fa/news/4107636

[81] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/10/10/3015088

[82] https://president dot ir/fa/149140 ; https://www.presstv dot ir/Detail/2023/12/31/717363/Iran-Ebrahim-Raeisi-condemn-assassination-Seyed-Razi-Mousavi-Israel-pay-price-crime

[83] https://www.iranintl dot com/en/202209203504; https://amwaj dot media/article/inside-story-airstrike-kills-iran-s-most-influential-commander-in-syria

[84] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-december-30-2023