22 January

War with Hamas

11:00 am AEDT, 22 January 2024

Your correspondents here at ZFA HQ have noticed that, in this entire war, the one actor that hasn’t really paid any price at all is Iran. Iran has funded and trained Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis, all of which are attacking Israel, or Israeli targets.

According to this Reuters article, Iranian and Hezbollah commanders are in Yemen, helping direct the Houthi attacks against international shipping. Now, the US is putting together plans for a ‘sustained’ campaign against the Houthis, since the strikes they’ve been carrying out over the past couple of weeks haven’t deterred them.

Hezbollah, has been attacking Israel, and Israel has been responding. Neither side wants a full-scale war to break out in the north.

In Iraq, Iranian-backed militias keep attacking US forces. Over the weekend, several more US forces were injured in a missile attack against a US base. To be clear, since 7 October, US forces have been attacked 144 times in Iraq and Syria. Every now and then, the US responds. (This 18 January opinion piece, by Foundation for Defense of Democracies Senior Vice President Jon Schanzer, said that the US forces had responded eight times to what was at that time 130 attacks against them.)

Iran seems to have channelled the strategic spirit of the Byzantine empire, which rarely fought its own wars, but rather coopted proxies into fighting its enemies. (If you’re still on a long summer holiday, you can round it off by reading this book, all about Byzantine strategy!)

But maybe new things are starting to change. In the Syrian capital over the weekend, four senior Iranians were killed in an explosion that was instantly blamed on Israel. (Israel hasn’t commented.) Among the slain Iranians were the intelligence chief of the IRGC’s Quds Force (and his deputy). The Quds Forces (noting that ‘al-Quds’ is the Arabic and Muslim name for Jerusalem) is one of the five branches of the IRGC (the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp), which specialises in special operations outside Iran. Read: terrorism.

Meanwhile, across the border in Lebanon, the commander for Palestinian affairs in the IRGC was killed when a missile launched by a drone hit his car. This report said he was responsible for providing intelligence and technological assistance to Hamas in Lebanon.

A tunnel in Gaza

Also over the weekend, Israeli troops uncovered a tunnel facility where Israeli hostages had been held. The tunnel was accessed from a residential home. Tiled, hot and stuffy, Israeli troops found five caged cells, with drawings by a five-year-old hostage Emilia Aloni (since released) stuck to the walls.

The IDF had to fight through Hamas gunmen to enter the tunnel, which had also been rigged with booby traps. Once photos had been taken by the IDF, the tunnel was destroyed. This has been standard practice.

Here’s a video showing what the tunnel looked like.

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