Potential Shifts in 2024 Israeli Military Strategy
Policy Brief Program
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Troops are primarily being withdrawn from northern Gaza, which Israel is close to assuming operation control, according to the military.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.