Iran Is Stepping up Its Arming of Hamas and Hizballah, in Preparation for War with Israel

Iran’s relationship with Hamas broke down when the two backed opposite sides in the Syrian civil war. But now Iran is supporting Hamas’s aspiration to take over the West Bank, thus potentially enabling massive simultaneous missile attacks on Israel. To make matters worse, Russia is supporting this project with arms sales. Michael Segall explains:

Iran, as statements by its senior officials suggest, is working to encircle Israel from the north (Hizballah), the south (Gaza), and the east (the West Bank) and to turn the rocket threat into an unbroken ring around Israeli territory. This Iranian activity is incessant, and it includes persistent smuggling of weapons into Gaza as well as shipments and convoys to Hizballah via Syria. According to foreign reports, sometimes Israel thwarts these weapons shipments in Syrian territory. . . . These reports note that some of the weapons destroyed in an attack on December 7 included advanced Russian-made antiaircraft systems . . . Fateh-110 missiles . . . and Iranian [drones]. . . . .

A few hours before the most recent alleged Israeli attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, met with Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah as part of the activities marking the 70th anniversary of Russian-Lebanese diplomatic relations. Iran, Russia, and Hizballah have a common interest—the survival of Bashar al-Assad.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Vladimir Putin, West Bank

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas