Thursday, May 16, 2024

Iran Update, May 16, 2024

Kathryn Tyson, Andie Parry, Kelly Campa, Johanna Moore, Alexandra Braverman, Ashka Jhaveri, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm 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. 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.

CTP-ISW defines the “Axis of Resistance” as the unconventional alliance that Iran has cultivated in the Middle East since the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979. This transnational coalition is comprised of state, semi-state, and non-state actors that cooperate to secure their collective interests. Tehran considers itself to be both part of the alliance and its leader. Iran furnishes these groups with varying levels of financial, military, and political support in exchange for some degree of influence or control over their actions. Some are traditional proxies that are highly responsive to Iranian direction, while others are partners over which Iran exerts more limited influence. Members of the Axis of Resistance are united by their grand strategic objectives, which include eroding and eventually expelling American influence from the Middle East, destroying the Israeli state, or both. Pursuing these objectives and supporting the Axis of Resistance to those ends have become cornerstones of Iranian regional strategy.

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.

Houthi Supreme Leader Abdulmalik al Houthi claimed on May 16 that the Houthis have attacked international shipping in the Mediterranean Sea in recent days.[1] No evidence to support this claim is currently available. Abdulmalik stated that the Houthis conducted two attacks targeting Israel-affiliated targets in the Mediterranean Sea over the past week without providing further details.[2] The Houthis’ Shahed-136 drone has a range of around 2,500 kilometers and could thus reach the Mediterranean Sea.[3] Abdulmalik’s claim comes after the Houthis announced on May 3 that they began a “fourth phase” of escalation by targeting international shipping bound for Israel in the Mediterranean Sea.[4]

Abdulmalik’s claim is likely part of the broader effort that the Axis of Resistance is conducting to impose an unofficial blockade on Israel. Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Bahrain have similarly claimed in recent weeks to have conducted attacks targeting Israeli infrastructure and sites tied to Israeli international trade.[5] It is similarly unclear whether these attacks actually occurred. Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” appear to be operating on the theory that severe economic disruption would compel Israel to accept defeat in the Gaza Strip and that such economic pressure could ultimately collapse the Israeli state. Iranian leaders have said repeatedly in recent months that their theory of how to destroy Israel revolves around stoking fear in Israel in order to catalyze reverse migration away from Israel. Iran has sought to extend its military reach into the Mediterranean Sea as part of this effort, as CTP-ISW has previously reported.[6]

CTP-ISW has previously assessed that the Houthis will likely fail to disrupt trade around the Mediterranean Sea in the same way that they have around the Red Sea.[7] The Houthis have a much more limited suite of capabilities that could reach the Mediterranean Sea. The Houthis also presumably lack a robust targeting capability there, whereas the Iranian Behshad surveillance ship provides targeting intelligence the Houthis around the Bab al Mandeb strait.[8]

Abdulmalik separately called on Iranian-backed Iraqi militias to join the Houthis’ “fourth phase” of escalation in the Mediterranean Sea.[9] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—has claimed several attacks on Israeli civilian and military infrastructure along the Israeli coast since December 2023.[10] The Islamic Resistance in Iraq also claimed that it could reach the Mediterranean Sea with a drone similar to the Houthi Samad drone on May 13.[11]

Key Takeaways:

  • Yemen: Houthi Supreme Leader Abdulmalik al Houthi claimed that the Houthis have attacked international shipping in the Mediterranean Sea in recent days. No evidence to support this claim is currently available.
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The IDF 98th Division continued to conduct clearing operations in Jabalia refugee camp.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: The IDF 162nd Division continued to conduct clearing operations east of Rafah City.
  • West Bank: The IDF conducted an “extensive” operation to disrupt Palestinian militia financing networks in several cities in the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least 16 attacks into northern Israel.
  • Iraq: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias— claimed two attacks targeting Israel.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 98th Division continued to conduct clearing operations in Jabalia refugee camp on May 16. Israeli forces killed and detained dozens of fighters, located weapons, and destroyed military infrastructure in Jabalia.[12] Israeli airstrikes have killed over 150 fighters in Jabalia since the IDF expanded clearing operations there on May 11.[13] Palestinian militias have claimed 20 attacks targeting Israeli forces operating near Jabalia refugee camp since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 15.[14]

The IDF said on May 16 that five IDF soldiers died from Israeli tank fire in Jabalia refugee camp on May 15.[15] An Israeli tank fired two shells at a building after mistaking a group of Israeli soldiers inside the building for Palestinian fighters. The soldiers belonged to the IDF 202nd Paratrooper Battalion. The attack resulted in seven other IDF injuries.[16]

The IDF announced that its 99th Division "completed” its clearing operation in Zaytoun on May 16.[17] The IDF launched a re-clearing operation into Zaytoun neighborhood, southern Gaza City, on May 8, marking the third time that the IDF has conducted a clearing operation there.[18] The IDF 2nd Brigade (99th Division) killed Palestinian fighters and destroyed an "operational shaft" in Zaytoun.[19] The IDF said that the 2nd Brigade and 679th Brigade continue to operate in the central Gaza Strip.

The IDF 162nd Division continued to conduct clearing operations east of Rafah City on May 16. The IDF 89th Commando Brigade directed airstrikes targeting Hamas fighters in eastern Rafah City.[20] The IDF 401st Brigade and Givati Brigade (both under the 162nd Division) killed Palestinian fighters and located weapons and tunnel shafts.[21] Palestinian militias, including Hamas, targeted Israeli forces east of Rafah with anti-personnel mines, rocket-propelled grenades, sniper fire, mortars, and rockets.[22]

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on May 16 that the IDF will deploy additional forces to Rafah as Israeli forces continue to conduct limited operations in the area.[23] Gallant said that Israeli forces have destroyed several tunnels in eastern Rafah and will continue to destroy tunnels there.[24] Gallant added that IDF operations will “intensify” in Rafah. Gallant said that Hamas is not able to “regenerate itself” and that Hamas lacks reserves, supplies, and munitions and has no ability to manufacture weapons or provide medical treatment to its fighters.[25]

This map displays engagements between Israeli and Palestinian ground forces across the Gaza Strip. To compile this map data, you must clean the data and ensure that the coordinates are standardized.

US CENTCOM announced on May 16 that it had anchored a temporary pier to the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian aid by sea.[26] The United States had delayed anchoring the pier due to inclement weather until now.[27] CENTCOM said that trucks carrying humanitarian assistance will begin moving ashore in the coming days.[28] The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Charles Brown, expects that aid will start moving into the Gaza Strip by the weekend and that, initially, around 25 trucks will move into the strip.[29] US officials have said previously that 90 trucks will move into the strip in the initial phase of the plan.[30]

Egypt rejected on May 16 an Israeli proposal to coordinate the reopening of the Rafah border crossing, according to two unspecified Egyptian security sources.[31] An Israeli delegation visited Cairo on May 15 to present a plan to reopen the crossing. The proposal included a mechanism on how to manage the crossing after an Israeli withdrawal, including having the Palestinian Authority (PA) unofficially manage the crossing.[32] An unspecified US official told Israeli media on May 13 that the PA rejected the Israeli proposal for the PA to manage the crossing.[33] Egypt said that the crossing should be managed only by Palestinian authorities, leaving few options other than the PA.[34] The Hamas-run General Authority for Crossings and Borders has previously managed the crossing.[35] Israeli forces seized control of the Rafah crossing when it launched a limited operation into Rafah on May 7.[36]

Israel said on May 16 that 250 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip and the Western Erez crossing in the northern strip.[37] Aid groups and the UN have reportedly struggled to deliver the trucks due to the active fighting near the crossings.[38]

Palestinian fighters conducted at least three rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cut off on May 15. Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine separately fired rockets targeting Kerem Shalom and Nahal Oz, respectively.[39] Unspecified Palestinian fighters mortared Meflasim.[40]

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

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least eight locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's data cut off on May 15.[41]

The IDF conducted an “extensive” operation on May 16 to disrupt Palestinian militia financing networks in several cities in the West Bank.[42] The IDF raided sites in Bethlehem, Nablus, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Tubas, and Tulkarm.[43] The IDF also detained several Palestinians and confiscated documents and unspecified technological equipment.[44] The IDF stated that the operation was conducted as part of an expansion of the IDF's and Shin Bet’s activities to “prevent terrorist funds in the Central Command.”[45] PIJ, the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and other Palestinian fighters targeted Israeli forces with small arms and improvised explosive devices, in Nablus, Qalqilya, Tubas, and Tulkarm during the IDF operation.[46] Hamas and the al Aqsa Martyrs‘ Brigades separately conducted a combined attack targeting an IDF unit at the Taiba crossing along Israel-West Bank border.[47] Israeli forces killed three Palestinian fighters during clashes in Tulkarm.[48]

A Palestinian individual stabbed an IDF non-commissioned officer at the Yitzhar Junction south of Nablus on May 16.[49] The IDF and Shin Bet conducted a manhunt and detained the suspect in Awarta, south of Nablus.[50]

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

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah has conducted at least 16 attacks into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 15.[51] Hezbollah launched two S-5 air-to-surface rockets from a drone for the first time, targeting an IDF site near the Israel-Lebanon border.[52] The IDF conversely stated that Hezbollah used a one-way attack drone.[53] Video of the attack suggests that Hezbollah launched rockets from a drone before the drone hit its target and detonated. Hezbollah separately conducted its furthest drone attack into Israel yet on May 15.[54] At least one drone struck an Israeli missile-detecting blimp 35 kilometers south of the Israel-Lebanon border.[55] An IDF spokesperson said that the attack on the blimp did not degrade the “IDF's ability to build an aerial image of the area.”[56] Hezbollah also targeted two Israeli military industrial sites in northern Israel with one-way attack drones.[57]

The IDF Air Force struck a weapons manufacturing plant that Hezbollah used to build guided munitions and drones in the Baalbek region.[58] Lebanese media described the Israeli strike as the largest in Baalbek since the start of the war.[59] Hezbollah fired a 60-rocket barrage targeting three IDF sites in northern Israel on May 16 in response to the Israeli airstrike.[60]

IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi met with division commanders responsible for northern Israel on May 15.[61] Halevi said that Israeli forces in Northern Command have ”very high readiness” and that the IDF will make decisions for northern Israel ”according to the developments.”[62]

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

Iran and Axis of Resistance

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—has claimed two attacks targeting Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cut-off on May 15.[63]

Former Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al Halbousi and the Shia Coordination Framework—a loose coalition of Iranian-aligned Shia political parties—appear to have agreed on a nominee for parliament speaker.[64] Halbousi allied with the Sunni Sadara bloc to form a majority coalition of Sunni parliamentarians and nominated Mahmoud al Mashhadani for parliament speaker on May 12.[65] The Shia Coordination Framework filed two lawsuits in January and May 2024 against Halbousi’s previous nominee for parliamentary speaker Shaalan al Karim as part of their efforts to install their preferred candidate, Mashhadani, as speaker.[66] Halbousi previously claimed that the parliament speaker must be from his Taqqadum party to represent the Sunni majority in Parliament.[67] He also threatened to withdraw the Taqqadum party from Parliament if the speaker nominee is not one of its members.[68] Iraq’s parliament will vote on a new speaker on May 18.[69]

US Central Command (CENTCOM) conducted a preemptive strike targeting four one-way attack drones in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on May 14.[70] CENTCOM determined that these systems presented an imminent threat to US, coalition, and merchant vessels in the region.



[3] ;


[5] ; ; ;







[12] https://www.idf dot il/201246

[13] https://www.idf dot il/201246

[14] See author for sources



[17] https://www.idf dot il/201246


[19] https://www.idf dot il/201246

[20] https://www.idf dot il/201246

[21] https://www.idf dot il/201246












[33] https://www.timesofisrael dot com/palestinian-authority-snubbing-israeli-offer-to-quietly-run-rafah-border-crossing/









[42] https://www.idf dot il/201311 ;


[44] https://www.idf dot il/201311;

[45] https://www.idf dot il/201311



[48] https://www.idf dot il/201311;;;



[51] ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;; ; ;

[52] ;


[54] ;

[55] ;



[58] ;





[63] ;

[64] https://www.shafaq dot com/ar/%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9/%D9%83%D9%81%D8%A9-%D8%B1-%D9%8A%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%81-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AE%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%84%D8%B5%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%B4%D8%AD-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D9%8A

[65] https://www.shafaq dot com/ar/%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9/%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B6%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%85-%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%82-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%B4%D9%8A%D8%AD-%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%88%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B4%D9%87%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D9%84%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86 ;

[66] ; https://www.shafaq dot com/ar/%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%AF-%D8%AF%D8%B9%D9%88%D9%89-%D8%A8%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%B9%D8%B6%D9%88%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%A7-%D8%A8-%D8%B4%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%85

[67] https://www.shafaq dot com/ar/%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9/%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%AF%D9%85-%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%AF-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%85%D9%87%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%B3%D9%8A%D9%82%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%8A-%D9%84%D9%86-%D9%8A%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%B1-%D9%86%D8%AD%D9%86-%D9%86%D9%85%D8%AB%D9%84-75-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%B3%D9%86%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%82

[68] https://www.shafaq dot com/ar/%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9/%D8%AD%D8%B2%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D9%84%D9%88-%D8%AD-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%85%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%85%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%A7-%D8%A8%D8%B3%D8%A8%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84-%D9%82%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3-%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9

[69] https://www.shafaq dot com/ar/%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9/%D9%83%D9%81%D8%A9-%D8%B1-%D9%8A%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%81-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AE%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%84%D8%B5%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%B4%D8%AD-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D9%8A