MS Risk Blog

Israel’s targeting of Hamas, Hezbollah and IRGC leadership

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Israel has a long history of conflict with Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), all of which are designated as terrorist organizations by Israel and other nations. Israel has recently been conducting targeted operations to remove key individuals within these organisations’ leadership. These activities might have a variety of consequences in the coming months, beginning with a weakening of the organisational structure inside Hamas, Hezbollah, and IRGC’s organization operations. The loss of these key leaders however could also spark a new regional spillover.

On January 3rd, 2024, Saleh Al-Arouri, a senior Hamas commander and one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing in the West Bank, was killed in the southern Beirut neighbourhood of Dahieh. At least four innocent people were also killed in the attack. This incident sparked a new wave of hatred with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah cautioning against Israeli killings in Lebanon, warning they would result in a “strong response”. Hamas on the other hand, told Egyptian and Qatari mediators that it is suspending talks over the possible release of more Israeli hostages in response to Arouri’s killing. Moreover, as the assassination of Saleh Al-Arouri occurred on Lebanon’s soil the potential of Hezbollah getting involved in this ‘revenge’ plan is more and more possible.  At the moment, the conflict is mostly between Israel and Hamas however, Hezbollah remains a danger to Israel. If Iran engagement continues, given its confirmed support for Hezbollah by funding them, the dynamics of the war might quickly shift, escalating the situation to a regional conflict.

On January 8th, 2024, senior commander Wissam Tawil of Hezbollah was killed in a strike in southern Lebanon. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, confirmed that Israel is responsible for the assassination of Wissam al-Tawil. Israel seems to have changed its strategy focus to attacking Hezbollah operatives, facilities, and systems used to deter Israel. Tawil was reportedly a member of the group’s elite Radwan Force and one of the most notable Hezbollah officials killed in the ongoing conflict. Like the assassination of Hamas’s deputy leader last week in Beirut, al-Tawil’s killing could raise fears of a larger regional conflict. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz however threatened Lebanon with far-reaching implications beyond the 2006 conflict but stated that Israel does not want tensions to escalate.

On December 25th, 2023, Sayyed Razi Mousavi, Iran’s top military advisor, was killed in Syria’s Damascus suburbs. Again, this incident created a lot of fear with the IRGC saying that the “usurper and savage Zionist regime will pay for this crime”. More recently on the 20th January 2024, five senior members of Iran’s security forces were killed in a suspected air strike on the Syrian capital. Among them were IRGC’s Syria’s intelligence chief and his deputy, as well as other Guard members. In recent months, Israel has launched hundreds of attacks on targets in government-controlled areas of war-torn Syria. Israel rarely acknowledges its attacks on Syria but when it does, it claims it is targeting Iran-backed forces who have supported Assad’s administration.

The assassination of Saleh Al-Arouri has significantly disrupted the negotiations between Hamas and its Western counterparts, causing Hamas to halt discussions on the issue of hostages, as passed on by mediators from Qatar to Israel. Furthermore, the potential of similar acts by Hezbollah and the IRGC on a bigger scale highlights the interconnection of multiple actors in the region. Given Hezbollah’s proven ties to Iran and Syria, the assassination of high-ranking members within the organisation might have far-reaching implications. This includes the potential of a spillover effect across regional alliances and power dynamics, as well as new alignments or adjustments in geopolitical strategies.

Given Hezbollah’s current status as a result of fighter and commander casualties, the West may be able to impose diplomatic pressure on Hezbollah to refrain from engaging in future combat operations. France has emerged as a leading mediator in the escalating tensions between Hezbollah and Israel. This position allows for Western engagement to counter Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel and other activities, thereby supporting the government’s efforts to strengthen control. However, this might take a sudden turn, worsening Hezbollah’s radicalism and leading to more assaults rather than fostering diplomatic agreements.

If diplomatic efforts fail to achieve the desired outcomes, the situation might worsen further, possibly leading to another Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Israel has conducted multiple attacks against Lebanon throughout the years, particularly 1978, 1982, and 2006. More recently, on the 28th of January 2024, according to Lebanese radio LBCI, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing to launch a full-fledged war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. U.S. officials are reportedly afraid that Netanyahu may launch a strike on Lebanon in response to mounting criticism of his inability to prevent the October 7 incident. However, a two-front war against Hamas and Hezbollah would be very difficult for the IDF to succeed.

Overall, the approaching months are quite unpredictable, the recent wave of assassinations targeting top members of these groups has left these organizations vulnerable and may significantly impact their operational capabilities and future activities. Nonetheless, if Israel decides to invade Lebanon, it might cause a bigger regional spillover, perhaps drawing in the involvement of Iran (and IRGC), thereby worsening the situation in the region.

The Houthi-Western Escalation

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Key Judgment: Within the next six (6) months, it is highly likely that we will continue to see disruption to commercial shipping in the Red Sea by the Houthi rebels.

Due to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Houthi’s, a Shia Islamist rebel group backed by Iran who control Western Yemen, announced on the 19th of October 2023 that all ships associated with Israel that operate in the Red Sea area will be targeted in offensive, disruptive attacks. Whilst this was the initial statement from the Houthi’s, they have since used this a guise to justify attacks on all commercial ships that operate in the area, severely disrupting global trade routes. The Red Sea and Bab el Mandeb Strait make up roughly 12% of world trade and 30% of global container traffic. An estimated 4.5 million barrels of oil pass through this region every day, and shipments of liquified natural gas along the route in the first half of 2023 came to around eight percent of the commodity’s trade globally. About 95% of the vessels that operate through these regions have rerouted around Cape of Good Hope, the only alternative shipping route, adding 4,000-6,000 nautical miles and 14-20 days to journeys. This has added supply chain stress, as well as incredible hikes in insurance and freight shipping costs as a result, with some experiencing 600% increases in these costs.

As a result of the Houthi disruption of freedom of navigation of commercial shipping, and the economic stress caused by these actions, the US and the UK responded on the 11th of January 2024 with joint airstrikes on Houthi drone, radar, and weapon sites. The aims of the strikes being to disrupt Houthi capabilities to further impede freedom of navigation. Following these strikes, the Houthi’s conducted 12 attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, resulting in a second joint air strike between the US and UK on Houthi positions on the 22nd of January. This demonstrates the West’s commitment to fighting against the Shia agenda in the Middle East. Prior to the US-UK led air strikes, Western nations launched Operation Prosperity Guardian on 18th December 2023 to support and maintain maritime security, with interceptions of missiles targeting US/UK Navy or commercial ships being a daily occurrence since the beginning of January.

Whilst the Houthis have built up their arsenal largely through the absorption of Yemeni military equipment, Iran are the primary financers of the Houthis. Utilizing complex smuggling networks within the Middle East and Africa, Iran has provided them with everything from small arms to long range ballistic missiles to further their strength. Iran are also the primary supporters of Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia Islamist militant/terrorist group, as well as Hamas, a Sunni Islamist militant/terrorist group. Both groups, alongside the Houthis, have ramped up the scale of their attacks on Israel and Western forces since the beginning of the conflict on October 7th, 2023. Iran also supports Shia militia groups in Iraq and Syria, which have been targeting US military bases in these regions throughout December 2023 and January 2024. Iran, who has been isolated by the West through severe sanctions in the last decade, sees an opportunity to reestablish power in the region by capitalizing on the tensions and escalating conflict levels via their proxy actors. This emboldening of Iran lines up well with the timing of increasing tensions in Europe with Russia, and in South-East Asia with China. As a result of this, it appears likely that Iran will maintain this strategy to take advantage of the division of Western power and attention.

In conclusion, the escalation of conflict in the Middle East between Iranian proxies and Western powers appears to be a calculated move to take advantage of the global tensions and the distraction of the West. By controlling the Red Sea area, Iran and the Houthi’s increase their bargaining power, and their influence on Western agenda. As a result of this, it is highly likely that disruption of commercial shipping in the region will persist for the next 6 months, and it is highly likely because of this that we will see continued offensive actions by US-UK led Western powers into Houthi territories.

Terrorist Threat in Western and Southern Europe

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It is no secret that the threat of jihadist terrorism has been of pressing concern for intelligence agencies and communities across Western and Southern Europe for a considerable length of time now. From a UK perspective, in mid-November 2022, the director of MI5, General Ken McCallum commented that the threat of jihadist terrorism contributed to” three quarters” of MI5’s terrorism caseload. Moreover, the United Kingdom’s latest publication of CONTEST, the UK’s strategy for combatting terrorism, notes that between January to December 2022 there were a total of 169 arrests in the United Kingdom for terrorism-related offences. As of March 2023, 232 individuals are in custody for terrorism-related offences in Great Britain. As we can see, the threat of jihadist terrorism within the UK certainly presents itself as a troubling and ever worrying issue for both Counter Terrorism Policing and MI5, collectively. Going further afield into Europe, in 2022, 266 arrests were made for suspected jihadist terrorism offences. 233 of the 266 arrests recorded were in the Western European countries of France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands. Specifically, France recorded 93 arrests, Spain recorded 46 arrests, Germany recorded 30, Belgium recorded 22, with both Italy and the Netherlands reporting 21 arrests each.  


A recent Europol report, published in December 2023 highlights that in 2022, six competed and foiled jihadist attacks occurred across the European Union. Out of the six attacks reported, four were foiled, with three of the four foiled attacks occurring in France and one in Belgium. The foiled attacks in France consisted of plans to attack a church in Challans, a knife attack against unclear targets in France and a case in which seven individuals were arrested in November 2022 for planning to carry out an attack in Strasbourg. The two successful attacks out of the six reported occurred in France and Belgium, resulting in the deaths of two victims. Foiled attacks relating to jihadist terrorism have also taken place in the UK across 2022 and 2023. In March 2022, Al-Arfat Hassan and a 15-year-old teenager were arrested after plotting to carry out an Islamic State inspired IED attack in central London. As of 2023, both perpetrators have admitted to carrying out terrorism offences and are due to be sentenced on February 2nd, 2024, in court. Other foiled attacks that have occurred in the UK over the include a July 2022 foiled attack in which a 15-year-old boy was accused of attempting to prepare to carry out an Islamic extremist inspired attack targeting the Isle of Wight Festival, and a foiled attack on 20thJanuary 2023, in which Mohammed Farooq was arrested outside St James’s hospital in Leeds after the discovery of a suspicious bag which contained a 13kg pressure cooker IED. Both Farooq and the teenager involved in the Isle of Wight Festival plot have subsequently been charged under Section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006 and have had other terrorism-related charges pressed against them.  


The data collected above from 2022 and 2023 clearly shows that the threat from jihadist terrorism certainly shows no signs of slowing down. It is a constant concern and avid threat for both the national security of the UK and for the national security of various regions across Western and Southern Europe. Unfortunately, this threat has now been amplified by the unfolding conflict between Israel and Hamas across the Gaza strip, which consequently has heightened the fears of jihadist terrorism spilling over from the ongoing conflict into the UK and elsewhere within Western and Southern Europe.Since October 7th, 2023, in the UK there have been 33 arrests for terrorism offences, with 19 related to protests which have been occurring up and down the country, 13 to social media activity and one arrest with regards to carrying out an alleged attack. Moreover, UK’s Counter Terrorism Policing units have received a 25% increase in the amount ofintelligence coming to them surrounding the threat of jihadist terrorism and violent extremism. Over 3,000 referrals for extremist material online have also been received by the UK’s counter-terrorism internet referral team since October 2023, 700 of which have been identified as having a direct link to the United Kingdom. This proves that the conflictbetween Israel and Hamas has reenergised jihadist terrorist groups and moreover, it has actively contributed to increasingtheir threat to the UK’s national security apparatus.  


Matt Jukes, the head of the UK’s Counter Terrorism Police force recently commented on January 20th, 2024, that the conflict in Gaza has become a “radicalisation moment” for the UK and has directly contributed to what he described as an “unprecedented” rise in the threat of terrorism. Indeed, this is certainly the case. Recent pro-Palestine protests in London, which occurred on January 13th and 14th 2024, have resulted in the Metropolitan Police arresting 4 individuals under terrorism offences. Three of the four individuals arrested were arrested under section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000 for inviting support to a proscribed terrorist organisation, with the fourth individual being arrested for attending a rally outside a West London police station in protest to the three individuals that were originally arrested. This demonstrates that the war in Gaza is linked to the rising terror threat in the UK. Another recent event that highlights the threat of jihadist terrorism spilling over from the Israel-Hamas conflict is the UK’s very recent decision to proscribe Hizb-ut-Tahri, an international Sunni Islamist political organisation as a terrorist group. The group has been proscribed due to being an antisemitic organisation, which actively advocates for and encourages conducting terrorist attacks. Additionally, Hizb-ut-Tahri actively praises the October 7 Hamas attacks and has attended rallies outside of Egyptian and Turkish embassies in London, where it called for Muslims to attack Israel. Moreover, on an international scale the group looks to establish a caliphate in the Middle East. The recent proscription of Hizb Ut-Tahri as a terrorist organisation in combination with multiple terrorism-related arrests at pro-Palestine rallies clearly gives further concrete evidence towards the argument that the Israel-Hamas conflict is actively contributing directly to a surge in jihadist extremism within the UK. Going forward, MI5 and Counter Terrorism Police must continue to monitor, deter, and apprehend individuals and groups who express any signs to carry out jihadist terrorist attacks or support such views in any shape or form. The threat of jihadist terrorism within the UK as a result of the conflict between Israel and Hamas is highly likely to continue be a pressing threat to the wider national security of the UK both now and in the near future.  


Whilst most of this report so far has focused on the threat of jihadist terrorism in the UK since October 2023 to January 2024, there have been other clear indications across Western and Southern Europe over the past month and in December 2023 which highlight the dangers that the Israel-Hamas war has created for the national security of the region. For example, France witnessed a Jihadist terrorist attack on December 2nd, 2023, in which Rajabpour-Miyandoab stabbed, killed a German tourist, and proceeded to attack two other individuals with a hammer in Paris. Miyandoab was swiftly arrested by French police following his attack. Miyabdoab’s motivation for carrying out the attack was because he was angry about events occurring in Gaza between Israel and Palestine. On December 14th, 2023, four Hamas members with close links to Hamas’ military branch were arrested across Germany and the Netherlands on suspicion of conspiring to carry out cross border attacks on Jewish institutions across Europe. One of the Hamas members arrested, Lebanon- born Abdelhamid Al A had been tasked by Hamas leaders to seek out and find sources for weapons in Europe. Once found, these weapons were meant to be taken to Berlin and harboured so the small four-man cell could use them to carry out potential terrorist attacks against Jewish institutions across Europe. 


During October 2023, three of the four Hamas members travelled to Berlin on multiple occasions to search for weapons for the attack. Additionally, three other individuals were also arrested in Denmark on sperate terrorism charges on December 14th, 2023. Danish authorities heavily suspect that these terrorism-related arrests were also Hamas related. In Germany on December 24th, 2023, a 30-year-old Tajik national was arrested in Wesel, Germany, after police received information that he was allegedly planning an attack on the Cologne Cathedral after visiting the site. A week later, on New Year’s Eve, German police arrested three more people in connection with the attack and arrested a fifth suspect on the same day. The attack on the Cathedral is believed to have involved the group using a Vehicle Bourne Improvised Explosive Device. All five preparators were part of a jihadist cell who were affiliated with Islamic State-Khorasan, an offshoot group of ISIS who operate in Afghanistan. It has also been reported that the attack was motivated by the Israel’s bombing of Gaza, which adds further weight to the argument that jihadist terrorism is on the rise in Europe due to the Gaza conflict. More recently in January 2024, Belgian Police stopped a bus travelling from Brussels to northern France and arrested 3 people after a passenger reported that they had overheard the group discussing a terrorist plot. 


What is clear from the recently foiled Hamas terrorist attacks that have taken place across Western and Southern Europe in December 2023 and from the unprecedented threat of jihadist terrorism that has occurred in the UK from October 2023 to January 2024  is that the ongoing war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas is starting to have serious effects on the national security environment for both the UK and various regions across Western and Southern Europe. With the war in Gaza showing no signs of stopping anytime soon despite countless calls for a ceasefire and protests in various regions over the world, it is painstakingly visible that the threats of jihadist terrorism have recently been stemming increasingly from the Israel-Hamas conflict. The threat of Hamas influencing foreign and affiliated individuals or groups are likely to be a reoccurring theme in 2024 and beyond. With events such as the Olympics being scheduled in France later this year as well as other important events taking place across Western and Southern Europe, the UK, and other countries in Western and Southern Europe must continue to mitigate and police the threat of jihadist terrorism spilling over into Europe as a result of the widening influence of the Israel-Hamas conflict. As Matt Jukes recently pointed out, “it’s hard to remember a more unstable, dangerous and uncertain world.” Tragically, his words ring true.  

Review of Situation in Eastern Europe

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As one of the remaining allay of Russia in European region, Belarus has been in the unique position of representing Russian interest. This has been continued for the last 1 month. Russia has completed shipments of short-range, tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, which raised strong concerns of neighbouring countries.

Diplomatic position of the country has been closer to Russa and China, which was represented with Lukashenko’s visit to Beijing in 4th December. Diplomatic isolations was seen after Global Red Cross suspended Belarus chapter after the chief Dzmitry Shautsou was related to mass Ukraine children abduction from Russian-controlled areas. It is known that more than 2,400 Ukrainian children was taken to Belarus.

Lukashenko is also tightening internal control. Human rights activists and formal political prisoner Leonid Sudalenka accused that he faced abuse in his three years of imprisonment. He submitted to UN Human Rights Committee, which Lukashenko refused to discuss. This is one of the continuing political oppression in the country.

Russian military presence in Belarus has been increasing. Wagner Group personnels continued to train Belarusian forces as of January. Five million rounds of ammunition was delivered to Belarus in December 2023. However, in the last few months decrease of equipment of Wagner Group in Belarus has been decrease, which could have taken back to Russa or transferred to Russian military.

Migration crisis on Belarus-Poland border is continuing since November 2022. It is known as part of hybrid warfare of Kremlin. Polish government constructed 5.5 meters high and stretching for 186km border barrier, stopping migrants and creating humanitarian crisis on border.


Vadim Krasnoselsky, the president of Republic of Transnistria claimed on 9th January that Moldova’s militarization is threatening Transnistria. This pro-Russian separatist leader is against Moldova’s pro-western policies, which is Kremlin controlled narrative that gives opportunities of future campaigns within Moldova. Long history of separatism and Russian speaking population of Moldova is facing possible treat from Moscow.


13th December, Donald Tusk became Prime Minister of Poland in the aftermath of the October parliamentary election. It was followed in 19th December, Polish public media crisis which dismissed directors and supervisory boards of public broadcaster TVP. This was criticized by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, which lost election.

Poland is facing political unrest after 2 politicians was affected in the presidential palace at 9th January. Former interior minister Mariusz Kaminski and former deputy interior minister Maciej Wasik was convicted and sentenced for abuse of power was given refuge in presidential palace. This shows political turmoil between the Law and Justice (PiS) party, and newly elected pro-EU administration. This was followed by the protest of several hundred PiS supporters at the police headquarter which where two former MPs were taken into custody after the arrest.

Current pro-EU party has majority in the parliament, but for month the country has suffered turmoil between current government and PiS. Current government is pushing for reform of country both domestic and foreign, which indicates turmoil within the new government.

20th December, Poland Internal Security Agency arrested suspected Belarusian woman of spying and providing information about diaspora in Poland to Belarusian security services. She was charged with espionage in 9th of January. It was announced that Daira Ostapenko, who was model on Only fans which is a paid online service for pornography and prostitute was recruited few years ago. She was arrested after she disclosed to her friends that she was working for Belarusian security services.

Migration crisis on the Belarusian border is still continuing, but there were no significant development in the past month.


As of February 2024, Russian invasion on Ukraine marks it’s 3rd year. Despite continuing long war and staggering casualties on the frontline, Russia has not made any significant advance for month. Ukraine war has become stalemate in both military sense and political sense. Both Putin and Zelensky’s political position makes peace negotiation impossible. Without hope of ending the war near future, Kremlin faces presidential election on March 2024 which gives pressure to Putin for a result in this war.

However, there is no evidence that national difficulties are presenting Putin serious near future threat. Despite long war with Ukraine, President Putin is maintaining strong domestic support with 67% approve of   Putin’s foreign policy and 58% on domestic policy. 66% is planning to vote for Putin in the upcoming March Presidential Election of Russia. Also, with long history of rigged election current regime is expected to be on power without difficulties.

Russia’s main war effort is focused on Eastern Ukraine, mainly on Luhansk and Donetsk Oblast. Until 9th January, there were no meaningful changes on frontline. Positional fighting without significant development has been continuing in Eastern Ukraine.

Although the invasion was made by the Russia, effect of the war is not isolated on Ukraine soil. 2th of January city of Belgorod, which is located near Russian-Ukraine border was strike by Ukrainian forces. 5 was wounded by this attack. 9th of January nearly 100 children was evacuated n Belgorod because of the repeated Ukraine attacks. Belgorod is the first Russian city that was attacked by the Ukraine and been suffering since. Currently there is no visible Ukraine forces on the area.

There was visible civil unrest, protest of families of Russian conscripts and activists being charge by the government indicates that Russian society is suffering from long war. But there is no visible political protest that could threaten regime or presidential election of 2024. One of the few remaining political adversary of Putin is Alexei Navalny, who is currently serving 19-years prison sentence was transferred to a IK-3 penal colony located in Yamalo-Nenets region. It is one of the Soviet-era Gulags, which is located at 1,900km northeast of Moscow. It is assumed this action is to deter Navalny’s public activities before presidential election.

Economical ties between Russia and the West have been damaged severely. And this is being replaced by China. Trade between China and Russia has reached a record of $240 billion in 2023, which is grown 26.3% comparing with 2022. Both countries has pledged to boost bilateral trade, and it is expected to grow in the near future because of deteriorated relation with the West. In 2023, half of Russia’s oil and petroleum was received by China, making Russia more dependent on Chinse relations.


Ukraine is suffering long war, but Ukrainian public is still having positive attitudes toward the Ukrain government. Survey published on 18th December 2023 shows that 99% trust Ukrainian Commander in Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and 66% trust President Zelensky. However, it is noticeable that comparing to 2022, trust in President Zelensky has been declined from 84%.

Conflict with Russia is mainly focused on Eastern Ukraine, countering Russian effort to strengthen control of Eastern part of the country. Each side is positional fighting without significant changes on the frontline. Currently, Ukraine is building further barricades near Kupiansk, which is the northeastern city of Ukraine. This indicates that soon Ukraine is not planning counter offensive. Such defensive position of Ukraine would lead to a long stalemate. Current weather condition in Ukraine is extremely cold, and temperature is not forecasted to rise over the next week, which would complicate both side’s operations.

However, Ukraine is suffering from Russian missiles strikes. In 8th January Russia have stroked with nearly 60 missiles nationwide. Most of the major Eastern cities such as Zaporizhzhia, Pokrovsk and Kharkiv was stroked, but some of the attacks was targeted on the other side of the country. Kharkiv region suffered again by Russian strike on 11th January.

In 3rd January, more than 200 soldiers was returned by the largest prisoner exchange. It was mediated by the UAE, and the location of the exchange was not announced by both governments. This was the 49th prisoner exchange during the war, and Ukraine announced among the returned 230 Ukrainian prisoners were veterans from milestone battles.

Ukraine defence audit found $262m worth of financial violations over the last four month. Corruption issue is especially sensitive issue in Ukraine currently. Because of unstable public opinion of Ukraine support in West, and application to join EU, Ukraine government is tackling corruption.

Review of Current Situation in the Middle East

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Tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border have risen in recent months, raising broad concerns about regional stability and security. The increase in tension began on October 7th and has been defined by a succession of important events since then. On December 4th Hamas reportedly established a new movement in Lebanon named Al-Aqsa in order to attack Israel by recruiting young people from camps. Three days following the statement, Hamas began distributing flysheets urging Palestinian youngsters in the Ein al-Hilweh refugee camps near Sidon to come together. In response to Hamas’ ‘Al Aqsa flood’ operation, Lebanon has launched a national emergency plan to confront the rising issue. The strategy is intended to shield the Lebanese people against future Israeli occupation forces assault by providing protective measures such as secure refuges and vital goods during times of crisis.

 In the midst of regional developments, the first batch of the 22nd Chinese peacekeeping forces arrived, with the following unit consisting of a multi-role engineering company, a construction engineering company, and a level 1+ medical detachment, reaffirming China’s commitment to UNIFIL’s mission in Lebanon.

Souheil Abboud, the president of Lebanon’s Higher Judicial Council, gave an urgent warning about the oncoming collapse of the country’s judicial system against the backdrop of the country’s rising crises and widespread corruption. Abboud emphasised the negative impact of political intervention on judicial efficiency, noting several empty judge seats and widespread obstruction of justice.

Furthermore, according to Lieutenant Colonel Avichay Adraee, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson in Arabic, around one-fifth of the rockets fired by Hezbollah against Israel have landed in Lebanon since the conflict began. In response to Hezbollah’s strikes, Israel has launched many missiles into Lebanon, primarily in the south. This led in the injuries of Hezbollah members, innocent people, and even the mayors of Taybeh on the 11th of December.

With the humanitarian disaster emerging in the region, the European Union announced a 12 million euros initiative in collaboration with the Expertise France to improve the integrity, transparency, and accountability of Lebanon’s public administration. The initiative is intended to last four years and conforms to reform possibilities indicated by the IMF Staff-Level Agreement, as well as modern public administration principles. This programme supplements current activities under the Lebanon Financing Facility for Reform, Recovery, and Reconstruction. The initiative aims to increase public trust in the government’s ability to serve citizens’ interests by supporting oversight organisations critical to combatting corruption and wrongdoing in the public sector. French diplomatic efforts have also been critical, with French Foreign Minister Mme Catherine Colonna visiting Lebanon on December 13th and 14th. In addition, on the 28th, David Cameron visited Lebanon, encouraging caution amid border tensions with Israel. Moreover, late this month Hezbollah accused Israel of hacking on CCTV cameras in southern Lebanon, heightening concerns amongst the Lebanese people.


In December 2023, Syria saw a series of security crises that highlighted the region’s geopolitical complexity. Tensions erupted near the Syria-Lebanon border on December 6th, when Lebanese authorities opened fire on a vehicle, killing a young man. Meanwhile, dispute erupted in northern Deir Ezzor’s Abo Al-Naital Village, when a local shooters group engaged in violent confrontations with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), resulting in the death of the local shooter.

The regional dynamics were heightened further on December 7th, with a significant increase in Israeli military strikes. There have been reports of Israeli missile assaults on Hezbollah positions near Qalamoun, northwest of Damascus. These bombings were part of a larger pattern that included Hezbollah and Iranian militia locations near Sayyeda Zainab and Hujira, south of Damascus. At the same time, Israeli planes began airstrikes in response to a missile launched from Syrian territory into the Golan Heights. Following strikes near Damascus International Airport aggravated the situation, leading in deaths and the loss of crucial infrastructure.

As the Israeli strikes progressed, ISIS increased their activity in several locations of Syria. Notably, two non-Syrian leaders of Iranian militias were killed in Al-Bokamal, Deir Ezzor. The capacity of ISIS to carry out strikes in Al-Jama’iya Checkpoint, Al-Rusafah desert, and Al-Tabqah city, with losses recorded among both government troops and members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), added to the complexity of the fight.

The U.S. military remained heavily involved, carrying out attacks in Syria against Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps targets and targeting suspected terrorists. These operations, together with the continuous insurgency against U.S. forces, created a complicated security environment in which regional conflicts intermingled. Additonally, explosions heard on December 11th at the U.S.’ Al-Shaddadi facility in Hasakah, assumed to be an attack by the Iraqi resistance. Meanwhile, in the Hasakah countryside, Syrian Arab Army soldiers evicted a mixed convoy of U.S. and Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters.

Concerns turned to humanitarian and environmental issues as the month continued. The link of combat and public health was emphasised by a hepatitis outbreak in Daraa governorate, which was fuelled by contaminated drinking water and worsened by state neglect. Furthermore, the cut-off of water to Hasakah city, which has been under Turkish-backed control since October, has added to the hardships of a besieged populace. In the middle of these security concerns, the Orontes River was confronted with a new hazard in the shape of an invasive Nile flower, which had a negative impact on the local livelihoods.

Taiwan made an important diplomatic move on the 13th by signing an aid arrangement with the U.S. to promote development initiatives in north-eastern Syria. The aid, focused at Hasakah and Deir Ezzor, aims to promote public health, improve quality of life, and educate first responders, all while helping to the rebirth of civil society.

Further, on the 15th, Russian air forces intervened, initiating airstrikes on terrorist hideouts in the White Desert to disrupt planned acts of sabotage targeting oil and gas installations, highways and government military positions.

The return of Syrian government second-in-command Maher al-Assad coincided with the approval of a legislation authorising the regime to oversee and invest in confiscated assets. This contentious measure, which went into force retroactively, tightened the regime’s control even more and prompted fears about state-sanctioned asset confiscation, replicating Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Turkish security forces killed PKK/YPG terrorists in northern Syria on the 20th, underlining Turkey’s continuous military actions in the region. Simultaneously, an ISIS-planted landmine killed seven members of Syria’s security forces, highlighting the country’s ongoing threat from terrorist elements. Landmines exploded in Homs in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate where pro-Iran militants attacked American positions in eastern Syria.  On the 23rd, ISIS carried out three strikes in regions held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), resulting in a few casualties. While on the 19th, Jordan carried airstrikes on farms and a military base near Al-Suwaidaa resulted in casualties. During an attempted smuggling across the Syrian Jordanian border, Syria seized a number of Captagon tablets and narcotic hashish packets. On the 29th, Israel escalated its military efforts by carrying out an aircraft attack against a critical Syrian air defence installation in southern Syria.  Simultaneously, in a dramatic escalation, as eleven Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders were killed in an attack on Damascus International Airport.

Finally, Razi Mousavi, a long-time advisor to Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, was assassinated by an Israeli attack in the Sayida Zeinab, Syria on the 25th. The incident heightened existing tensions, with Iran threatening Israel with retaliation.


The month of December saw major escalation in the Israel-Hamas conflict, with a number of incidents ranging from difficult political conversations to increased military actions. The conflict between Palestinian militias and Israeli soldiers in Khan Younis laid the ground for a fresh round of violence. The al Qassem Brigades’ claim of responsibility for an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) strike that killed Israeli soldiers. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) responded quickly, releasing details on the December 10th operations in the Shujaiya neighbourhood. The 282nd Fire Brigade carried out strikes on over 20 targets, including weapons storage facilities and booby-trapped residences, highlighting the conflict’s urban warfare issues. Additionally, the al Quds Brigades claimed responsibility for the explosion of a house in Shujaiya that contained 13 Israeli soldiers looking for a tunnel access.

In mid-December, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken supported the emergency delivery of roughly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition to Israel, citing Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas as justification.

With Hezbollah’s involvement, the conflict’s regional implications became increasingly obvious. Hezbollah targeted three Israeli military outposts near the Lebanese border: Ramim, Metulla, and the Birket Rishe. The tension reached a breaking point with a Hezbollah missile attack on Kiryat Shmona, demonstrating the group’s willingness to strike against perceived Israeli offences. Meanwhile, the Yemeni Houthis’ warning that ships avoid sailing towards Israel underlined the possibility of regional spillover and the junction of many geopolitical fault points.

Further, on December 23rd, Israeli forces made significant advances into the West Bank. Tulkarem and Bethlehem became the flashpoints for violence between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian people. On December 27th, a viable avenue for humanitarian help arose amid the growing fighting. Israel agreed to a proposal for a humanitarian sea corridor into Gaza, which has the backing of Cyprus and the United Kingdom. Moreover, internal Israeli unrest reached a boiling point on December 30th, when hundreds of protesters filled the streets of Tel Aviv. The protestors were demanding a cease-fire, the release of Israeli detainees, and the cessation of civilian fatalities in Gaza.


Jordan has recently found itself at the crossroads of several difficulties, demonstrating the region’s complexity and dynamism. In the face of global developments, the Kingdom has been actively involved in resolving both internal and foreign challenges.

The continued dispute in Gaza has drawn international attention, and Jordan, led by King Abdullah II, has played a critical role in diplomatic attempts to settle the problem. King Abdullah’s constantly appeals for a quick cease-fire along with Egypt and raises his concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Jordan’s aggressive commitment in seeking solutions to the Israel-Hamas conflict is shown by the recent meeting between King Abdullah II and French President Emmanuel Macron in Aqaba on the 21st of December. The King emphasised the need of international cooperation in facilitating the supply of humanitarian supplies to Gaza, alluding to the potential consequences of continued Israeli assault.

Jordan has experienced internal issues, particularly in the area of human rights. On the 7th of December Human Rights Watch reports have highlighted concerns about Jordan’s security forces’ systematic targeting of LGBTQ+ people. Jordanian police have been accused of assaulting the LGBTQ+ community by forcing individuals to reveal their sexual orientation to their conservative families and shutting down LGBTQ+ organisations. Human rights organisations claim abductions, harassment, and monitoring of activists, with current targeting growing.

Jordan’s army launched a raid on drug traffickers near the Syrian border on the 12th, resulting in the deaths of many individuals involved in the trafficking of the drug Captagon. This amphetamine-like stimulant, which is commonly made in Syria, is transported through Jordan into the Gulf nations, providing significant funding to Syria’s government and Iran-aligned militias who control areas of southern Syria. Despite the operation, several smugglers were able to return to Syria, taking advantage of the two nations’ large and partly desert 370km (230-mile) border. On the same day, Jordan signed a deal with the United States to receive a grant of 845.1 million US dollars. This award, which is part of Jordan’s yearly U.S. financial aid, is meant to promote the execution of different development projects and economic reforms in areas such as public finance, water, energy, education, health, and housing. Zeina Toukan, Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, emphasised that the award will help to reduce Jordan’s state budget deficit, giving critical assistance for the country’s economic growth.

Jordan effectively prevented repeated efforts by Syrian groups to smuggle weapons and drugs into its borders on the 21st. These group, allegedly run by Syrian security forces, Hezbollah, and Iran, were designed to feed Palestinian groups in the West Bank. Notably, on December 18, 2023, the Jordanian army revealed the foiled of a large-scale smuggling operation including narcotics, machine guns, and, crucially, rockets—a major increase in smuggled armament. The operation came during a time of heightened smuggling attempts, and on that day, severe confrontations erupted on the Syrian border between Jordanian border guards and armed groups attempting to smuggle in contraband, injuring Jordanian soldiers. In response to the danger, Jordan launched numerous airstrikes in southern Syria, targeting smugglers’ operations near the border. According to government spokesperson Muhannad Mubaidin, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi talked with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and stressed that smuggling attempts by Iran-affiliated militias in Syria must stop.

Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian shepherds east of Khalat Makhol in the northern Jordan Valley on the 27th.  The attackers apparently targeted the shepherds when they were seeking to reach pastures east of Khalat Makhol, impeding their entry to the region. At the same time, Israeli authorities apprehended two shepherd children, Hussein Yousef Bisharat, 16, and Mohammad Yousef Bisharat, 13.