Potential Shifts in 2024 Israeli Military Strategy

Hamas Leader Salah al-Arouri Killed

  • On Tuesday, January 2, Saleh al-Arouri (57), deputy chief of Hamas’s political bureau and one of the founders of Hamas’ armed wing, was one of six people killed in a drone strike in the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon.
    • Al-Arouri, labeled a global terrorist by the United States, was imprisoned in Israel prior to living in exile in Lebanon.
    • In Lebanon, al-Arouri has been serving as a connecting figure between Hamas and Hezbollah, the largest political and military force in Lebanon. Both groups are included in Iran’s “axis of resistance.”
  • Israel did not immediately confirm or deny its alleged role in killing Al-Arouri.
    • Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah responded to the drone strike with threats of “response and punishment.”
  • Since the start of the war, Israel and Hezbollah have regularly exchanged fire across Lebanon’s southern border.
    • Israeli leaders have repeatedly vowed to target Hamas leaders outside of the Palestinian territories, citing Lebanon, Turkey, and Qatar specifically.

Days Prior: A Shift in Strategy?

  • The strike in Lebanon comes days after Israel announced that it would return five brigades, totaling thousands of soldiers, from the Gaza Strip.
    • Troops are primarily being withdrawn from northern Gaza, which Israel is close to assuming operation control, according to the military.
  • Reports indicate that “fierce fighting continue[s] in other areas of Gaza, especially the southern city Khan Younis and central areas of the territory.”
    • Shortly after the announcement, 207 Palestinians were killed in over a dozen Israeli attacks within a 24-hour time span.
  • Israeli officials shared that this partial withdrawal would coincide with a shift to more targeted operations against Hamas and preparation for a possible escalation in fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.
  • The Biden administration has pressured Israel towards the pursuit of increasingly targeted operations with fewer civilian casualties during its military campaign against Hamas.
    • Women and children account for more than 16,000 of the over 22,000 fatalities in Gaza since October 7.
  • Israel’s decision to pursue and assassinate targets abroad “has sparked renewed concerns about Israel’s war on Gaza spreading to the wider Middle East.”
    • Lebanon’s Prime Minister “accused Israel of trying to ‘drag’ [Lebanon] into a regional war.”

Historical Context of Israeli Military Operations

  • Analyzing fatality statistics from previous Israeli-Arab conflicts can demonstrate trends and deviations in Israel’s emerging 2024 defense strategy.

(Sources: Jewish Virtual Library, Al Jazeera)



(Banner image: IDF)

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