Hamas’s Lebanese War Room

During the 2021 war between Israel and Hamas, the Gaza-based terrorist group reportedly maintained an operations center in Beirut, primarily for intelligence sharing with Hizballah and with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Jonathan Schanzer examines what is known about this war room, and the implications of its discovery:

Based on available information, the primary purpose of the nerve center appears to be intelligence-sharing. Specifically, the nerve center provides Hamas with aerial intelligence derived by Hizballah and the IRGC, perhaps through reconnaissance drones dispatched from Lebanon and Syria. Several have been targeted by Israeli air defenses in recent years, according to news reports. One focus of this reconnaissance effort appears to be mapping the movement of Israeli forces. This may have helped Hamas avoid an Israel Defense Forces ambush on the group’s tunnel network in the 2021 war. Reports also suggest that the nerve center provided Hamas with better capabilities to conduct “sensitive hacking operations” against Israel.

The very fact that Hamas is actively cooperating with Iran and Hizballah is significant. A decade ago, Hamas leaders left Syria in protest after years of close cooperation, owing to the Iran-backed military campaign against Sunni and Palestinian fighters in the Syrian civil war. Rapprochement reportedly began in 2017, when Hizballah officials held talks with senior Hamas officials amid reports of a resumption of Iranian funding for the group. Hamas’s leader Saleh al-Arouri led several Hamas delegations to Iran and Lebanon in 2017. By 2018, the Israeli mission to the United Nations charged that Arouri was collaborating with Iran and Hizballah to establish rocket-launching facilities in Lebanon with the goal of drawing Israel into a two-front conflict, with attacks from Gaza and Lebanon in the future.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon


Iran’s President May Be Dead. What Next?

At the moment, Hizballah’s superiors in Tehran probably aren’t giving much thought to the militia’s next move. More likely, they are focused on the fact that their country’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, along with the foreign minister, may have been killed in a helicopter crash near the Iran-Azerbaijan border. Iranians set off fireworks to celebrate the possible death of this man known as “butcher of Tehran” for his role in executing dissidents. Shay Khatiri explains what will happen next:

If the president is dead or unable to perform his duties for longer than two months, the first vice-president, the speaker of the parliament, and the chief justice, with the consent of the supreme leader, form a council to choose the succession mechanism. In effect, this means that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will decide [how to proceed]. Either a new election is called, or Khamenei will dictate that the council chooses a single person to avoid an election in time of crisis.

Whatever happens next, however, Raisi’s “hard landing” will mark the first chapter in a game of musical chairs that will consume the Islamic Republic for months and will set the stage not only for the post-Raisi era, but the post-Khamenei one as well.

As for the inevitable speculation that Raisi’s death wasn’t an accident: everything I have read so far suggests that it was. Still, that its foremost enemy will be distracted by a succession struggle is good news for Israel. And it wouldn’t be terrible if Iran’s leaders suspect that the Mossad just might have taken out Raisi. For all their rhetoric about martyrdom, I doubt they relish the prospect of becoming martyrs themselves.

Read more at Middle East Forum

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, Mossad