The Northern Arena and the Shiite Axis – Weekly Review of Key Events and Data (June 17 to June 23)

The Lebanese Arena:

Conflict Data:

The Israeli government has evacuated 43 communities within five kilometers of the border with Lebanon, totaling approximately 61,000 citizens. Thousands more have voluntarily evacuated. Some Israeli communities have not been fully evacuated and still have a civilian presence (agriculture and industry).

The evacuation period has been extended by the Israeli government until summer 2024 (July/August 2024).

Hezbollah has killed 8 Israeli civilians and a foreign agricultural worker so far, totaling 9 civilian fatalities. Over the past week, there were 47 attacks on the northern border, with Hezbollah claiming responsibility for 38 of them. These attacks involved projectile fire (including Grad and Falaq rockets), anti-tank missiles, and suicide drones. Nine incidents had no claimed responsibility, including 8 drone infiltrations and a single launch event in the town of Betzet. Since the start of the war, there have been 2,190 attacks in the northern arena, most of them by Hezbollah.

Highlights of projectile and other attacks against Israel:

(June 18) After two days without Hezbollah claiming attacks during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for launching a suicide drone at a military base in the Western Galilee.

(June 18) Hezbollah launched Falaq rockets at the Plasan defense production factory in Sasa.

(June 19) Hezbollah claimed responsibility for launching about 16 Grad rockets at the city of Kiryat Shmona, targeting a military base in response to IDF strikes in Lebanon. Many rockets landed in civilian areas, causing infrastructure, property, building, and vehicle damage.

(June 22) Hezbollah conducted two anti-tank missile attacks on homes in Metula and another attack on Manara claiming this was as a response to the IDF attacks in Lebanon.  

Above: Fire and damage in Metula following Hezbollah projectile attacks (photographed from Lebanon)

(June 23) Hezbollah launched several UAVs at a military base in the Ayelet Hashahar area in response to an assassination in Al-Khiyara in the Bekaa Valley the previous day, injuring one soldier.

(June 23) A Hezbollah UAV was intercepted in the Misgav area (central Galilee) near a Rafael defense facility.

(June 23) Hezbollah launched anti-tank missiles at Metula, injuring two members of a local emergency response squad.

Hezbollah Casualties:

During the past week, Hezbollah reported the deaths of 6 of its military-terror operatives.

Since October 8, 2023, 349 Hezbollah operatives have been killed. Most of the killed operatives (234, or 67%) were from south of the Litani River. Many Hezbollah operatives and their families live in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border, operating within Hezbollah’s geographical units (Nasser/Aziz) and special units (Radwan Unit), blending in with the civilian population (human shield tactic).

According to reports from Lebanon, 49 terrorist operatives from other organizations, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Amal Movement, and the Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Fajr), have been killed since the start of the war.

 Assassinations of Senior Hezbollah Operatives:

Since October 8, 2023, 30 senior Hezbollah operatives have been eliminated. Of these, 40% (12) were from the geographical units (Southern Front), particularly the Nasser Unit, including the unit’s commander, Hajj Abu Taleb. Around 33.3% (10) were from the Radwan Unit, including its acting commander Wissam Al-Tawil. The focus has been on eliminating sector commanders and professional array commanders (rockets/anti-tank, etc.). Additionally, 2 senior operatives from the air unit and 2 from Hezbollah’s air defense unit were killed. 13.3% (4) were key figures in research, development, and production of weapons and supporting combat technology.

While the assassination effort is important, Hezbollah maintains operational and command continuity. This effort cannot be the main strategy but should complement the primary strategy of significantly damaging Hezbollah’s tactical fire and military infrastructure in the Southern Front and its strategic fire and infrastructure deep within Lebanon.

Assassination of Nasser Unit Leaders (Updated June 19, 2024):

The Nasser Unit is one of Hezbollah’s geographical units, operating in southern Lebanon under its Southern Command. The commander of the Southern Front is Ali Karki. These units have independent combat capabilities and most of the operatives are from southern Lebanon.

Since October 2023, these units have been highly active against Israel, with many Hezbollah casualties belonging to them. Since the start of the war, 9 senior operatives from the Nasser Unit have been assassinated, including the unit commander Taleb Sami Abdullah (Abu Taleb), killed on June 11, 2024. Among those killed are two regional commanders, three senior organization headquarters members, a sector commander, the head of the missile and rocket array in the coastal sector, and a central operative in the missile and rocket unit. Additionally, two senior Southern Front operatives were killed, including the intelligence officer and the deputy commander of the missile and rocket unit.

Assassination of Radwan Unit Leaders (Updated June 19, 2024):

The main mission of the Radwan Unit is to infiltrate Israeli territory and capture areas and communities in the Galilee. Due to the threat posed by the Radwan Unit, the IDF has been targeting its operatives and infrastructure along the border since the start of the war. Since October 8, 2023, 10 senior Radwan Unit operatives have been killed, including the unit commander Wissam Al-Tawil. Among those killed are 3 regional commanders, senior commanders, key knowledge figures, and significant operatives. Despite these losses, the Radwan Unit retains some capability to conduct targeted infiltrations into Israeli territory.

Highlights of attacks in Lebanon

(June 17)  In an attack in the village of Selaa in southern Lebanon, Mohammad Mustafa Ayoub, a key operative in the missile and rocket unit of Hezbollah’s Nasser Unit, was killed. Ayoub was involved in activities centering around rocket fire launches at Israeli civilians and planning terror operations from southern Lebanon into Israeli territory.

(June 20) In an attack on a vehicle in Deir Kifa, Abbas Ibrahim Hamza Hamada, the operations commander of the Jouaiyya sector in Hezbollah, was killed. Hamada was responsible for planning and implementing terror operations against Israel and had been advancing Hezbollah’s presence in southern Lebanon, improving the organization’s ground combat capabilities.

(June 22) In an airstrike at the Khiyara junction in the Bekaa region of Lebanon, Ayman Hashem Ghotmeh, a military commander in Al-Fajr forces, the military wing of Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya, operating under Hamas in Lebanon, was killed. Ghotmeh was likely killed while returning from a field tour in the Al-Arqoub area in southern Lebanon with his escort. The tour was likely a preliminary step towards an imminent terror operation against Israel. Gotmeh was also involved in supplying weapons for terrorist activities.

Hezbollah – General:

(June 19) Speech by Nasrallah in memory of Taleb Abdullah “Hajj Abu Taleb,” commander of the Nasser Unit:

After speaking about Abu Taleb, Nasrallah emphasized the connection between the Lebanese front and the war in Gaza, stating that the way to end the war and achieve a ceasefire in all arenas is to end the war in Gaza. As part of psychological warfare and establishing the ‘resistance’s victory narrative,’ Nasrallah claimed that Israel is failing in the Gaza war and has suffered significant losses, providing numerical data.

He noted that the Lebanese front requires more than 100,000 Israeli soldiers, enough to defeat Hamas in Gaza, due to Israel’s fear of a Hezbollah invasion of the Galilee, a plan that remains on the table if the conflict escalates. Nasrallah reinforced the idea of uniting the fronts, stating that Israel cannot confront multiple arenas. An example is the Yemen front, left to the Americans and British because Israel cannot act against them. However, they are failing to thwart the Houthis’ attacks on ships.

Nasrallah highlighted Hezbollah’s efforts to target Israeli technologies and intelligence means, including attacks on the Meron IDF base, aiming to blind Israel. He added that Hezbollah has so far fought with only part of its arsenal and manufactures its drones independently.

Nasrallah mentioned that leaders from the Shiite axis offered to send fighters to assist Hezbollah in the war against Israel, but Nasrallah declined their offers, stating that Hezbollah has over 100,000 fighters. In a total war with Israel, Hezbollah’s missiles and drones will reach all parts of Israel, and Israeli ships and ports will also be targets, he said. The “resistance” will fight without control or laws, he threatened, and such a war in Lebanon will have regional consequences.

Regarding a total war with Israel, Nasrallah threatened the Cypriot government if it allows Israel to use its airports in a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. If this happens, he said, Cyprus will become part of the war.

(June 22) On June 22, a picture was circulated on social media showing a banner with Nasrallah’s image hanging on the ruins of a building in Kfar Kila in southern Lebanon. The banner read: “We and our homes and children are for you, leader of the resistance.” Upon investigation, it appears to be a new picture, first published on Saturday, June 22, likely following IDF attacks on several houses in Kila. It is unclear who is responsible for hanging the banner and its origin.

Despite the enormous damage caused by Hezbollah’s human shield tactic to civilian infrastructure in Shiite villages in southern Lebanon, particularly in villages near the Israeli border (such as Kfar Kila), no public criticism or protests against Hezbollah have been identified from the local Shiite population or Hezbollah’s Shiite base in general. Hezbollah’s Shiite base is essentially a captive audience for three main reasons:

 A. Religious Ideology: Education and indoctrination (about 90% of the education content in Hezbollah’s independent education system focuses on Shia, martyrdom, and jihad).

B. Dependency on alternative civil services provided by Hezbollah through the Executive Council (economic, social, health services, etc.).

C. Fear of Hezbollah’s response (especially from its security unit) against its opponents, particularly within the Shiite community. For Hezbollah, a Shiite opponent literally has no right to exist.

(June 21) Amid growing fears of a total war between Hezbollah and Israel, Al Arabiya reported that UNIFIL forces began to reinforce and upgrade security at some of their bases in southern Lebanon. The report noted that UN forces set up new fortifications at several of their centers in the south.

(June 22) Hezbollah officials, including Hajj Ali Daoun, the Jabal Amel regional chief, and Hezbollah MP Hassan Ezzeddine, met in Nabatieh with senior officials from the Amal Movement, including Dr. Najal Khatit, the southern region chief of Amal. During the meeting, they discussed the war and the strikes on targets in southern Lebanese villages. They called on the Lebanese government, all of its ministries, and institutions to support the residents of southern Lebanon, stand by them, and provide all necessary assistance: health, social, and economic.

Photo: Hassan Izz-Al-Din (left), Hajj Ali Daoun, and Dr. Nasal Hatit

(June 23) The British newspaper The Telegraph reported that Hezbollah holds a vast arsenal at Beirut International Airport, including Falaq rockets, short-range Fateh-110 missiles, ballistic missiles, M-600 missiles, anti-tank missiles, heavy Burkan rockets, and RDX explosives. See our July 2023 analysis on Hezbollah’s takeover of parts of Beirut International Airport.

Lebanon – General:

(June 18) The U.S. President’s envoy to the Middle East, Amos Hochstein, arrived in Lebanon and held several meetings with Najib Mikati, Prime Minister of Lebanon, and Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Parliament and head of the Shiite Amal Movement (some of whose military-terrorist operatives are fighting against Israel alongside Hezbollah operatives). Hochstein’s visit to Lebanon is part of efforts to prevent a significant escalation in the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

Photo: Nabih Berri (right) and Amos Hochstein (left)

(June 19) Meeting between the commander of the Lebanese Army, Joseph Aoun, and the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, Mojtaba Amani. The two discussed the economic situation in Lebanon and the region.

(June 20) Families of the Beirut port explosion victims, in collaboration with the Beirut Fire Brigade, held a protest in front of the Beirut court under the slogan: “The victims only ask for justice, and justice is your duty.” Participants held pictures of the victims, Lebanese flags, and banners demanding that the investigation not be disrupted, that those responsible for the attack be prosecuted. Several residents explained that “this protest aims to emphasize the need to complete the investigations, issue a decisive ruling, and prosecute those responsible, no matter how senior they are, for the Beirut port explosion, the worst disaster to strike Lebanon.”

The explosion occurred in Hangar 12 at the seaport, located within a known Hezbollah compound, and was caused by storing ammonium nitrate, which is also used to produce explosives.

The Syrian Arena:

Highlights of attacks in Syria

(June 19) According to local reports, an attack was carried out in southern Syria near the border with Israel against two military sites, resulting in the death of a Syrian officer. Leaflets were distributed in the area following the attack, warning against cooperation with Hezbollah: “Time and again, the Syrian army continues to pay the price for Hezbollah’s presence at its sites. As we warned, we will continue to act as long as intelligence cooperation with Hezbollah persists.”

(June 22) According to local reports, an airstrike targeted a convoy of trucks carrying weapons moving from the city of Al-Bukamal (Syria-Iraq border) northward on the N4 highway. An operative from the Iraqi Shiite militias (Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigades) was killed in the attack.

Syria – General:

(June 19) The Jordanian army announced that it successfully intercepted a drone from Syria carrying a shipment of crystal meth. The Jordanian customs department reported last month that it had thwarted the smuggling of 800,000 Captagon pills at the Jaber border crossing with Syria.

The Shiite Axis – General:

The last reported attack on American bases in Iraq and Syria by Shiite militias, officially reported by the US Central Command, occurred on February 20. According to various reports, attacks on American bases ceased due to a direct Iranian directive to the Shiite militias, in light of secret agreements between Iran and the US.

Since then, indications of several attacks by Shiite militias on American bases in northeastern Syria have surfaced. Although we believe there were attacks, the U.S. Central Command has not publicly confirmed them as it did before February 20. During the past week (June 17 to June 23), there were two unverified reports of attacks on American bases: a rocket attack on the Al-Omar base and a drone attack on Al-Tanf.

During the past week (June 17 to June 23), the Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed responsibility for 4 attacks against Israel. Two of these attacks were “joint operations” with the Houthi forces. Aside from one event on June 23 where a UAV was intercepted by a fighter jet, there were no other, additional indications of attacks.

Yemen – Houthi-land:

During the past week, coalition forces succeeded in striking 8 explosive boats, 13 UAVs, 4 radars, and a command and control post of Houthi forces posing an immediate threat.

Since October 2023, there have been 178 Houthi attacks against Israel, the U.S., and other targets.

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