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GAZA STRIP WAR MOVES INTO EXPANDED GROUND OPERATIONS; NEW UPDATES ON HOSTAGES, DIPLOMACY, AND MORE

(The Situation Update Report [SUR] is a near real-time brief of a possible threat or situation being monitored by The Counter Threat Center. The information is accurate at the time of reporting, but may be subject to change.)


Gabriel Helupka, Dan Flanagan, Nicholas Novak, William Bos, Wissal Mabrouk, Ignacio Minuesa

Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor

October 23, 2023


Fires in Israel and the Gaza Strip[1]


Current Situation: At the time of reporting, the Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has gathered the following information on the current conditions in the Gaza Strip.


Healthcare Infrastructure: Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned that Gaza’s healthcare system is facing an imminent collapse. They said hospitals are overwhelmed and lack medical resources.[2] Health infrastructure is encountering indiscriminate attacks. On October 17, a rocket attack struck al-Ahli Arab Hospital, although the cause is currently inconclusive. Hundreds were reportedly killed.[3] On October 8, the Al-Quds Brigade of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) posted a Telegram video with the caption “Direct hit in Barzilai Hospital.” The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attributed the attack to Hamas. IDF airstrikes reportedly hit the Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahiya, killing three and injuring five others. They also reportedly struck an ambulance near Nassar Hospital in Khas Yunis, injuring several paramedics.[4]


Humanitarian: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports an estimated one point four million people have been displaced in Gaza. More than 544,000 are sheltering in 147 UN Reliefs and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) facilities under “increasingly dire” conditions. The Gaza Health reportedly estimates roughly 4,137 Palestinian fatalities and 13,162 injuries. Israel official sources say there are about 1,400 Israeli fatalities and 4,629 injuries. The Gaza Housing Ministry alleges at least 30 percent of all housing infrastructure has been destroyed or damaged since the conflict’s inception. OCHA reports a full electricity blackout and a ban on fuel imports for backup generators, having severe negative impacts on healthcare and safe drinking water access. They also say increased unsafe drinking water consumption raises the threat of infectious disease outbreaks.[5] The IDF claims Hamas possesses a fuel reserve of over one million liters that they refuse to hand out. They also claim Hamas uses the fuel to light their tunnels, homes, and rocket launchers.[6] The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) announced humanitarian aid has crossed into Gaza from Egypt.[7] US President Joe Biden announced his administration will continue efforts to ensure the Rafah border crossing remains open to provide aid to Gaza.[8] Contact with Gaza was cut off on October 27, and landlines, cellular, and internet services were shut down. The communications shutdown impacted relief efforts and life-saving information could not be relayed to the rescue personnel.[9] Internet connectivity in Gaza is being restored following a series of heavy bombardments from Israel on Friday.[10] Between October 27 and around noon on October 28, at least 377 Palestinians, including 157 children were killed in Gaza.[11] As of October 29, more than 3,257 children have been killed in the conflict, including at least 3,195 in Gaza. According to both the Ministries of Health in Gaza and Israel, the number of children killed has surpassed the annual number killed since 2019.[12] It is estimated that 1.4 million Palestinians are displaced in Gaza, with 657,000 sheltering in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) facilities.[13]


Hostages: Two American hostages, Judith Tai Raanan and Nathalie Shoshana Raana, were released by Hamas.[14] The IDF confirms Hamas is holding over 200 hostages.[15] Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said he “renews his call for an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”[16] Abo Obaida, Hamas Spokesperson, said that Hamas informed Qatar they would release two Israeli hostages by the names of Nurit Yitzhak and Yohavd Levshitz, “for compelling humanitarian reasons and without compensation. However, the occupation government refused to receive them.”[17] Obaida also announced that Hamas is ready to release two female hostages on October 22 with the same procedures as the release of the two Americans.[18] On October 30, IDF rescued soldier, Ori Magidish in a ground operation.[19] German Chancellor Olaf Scholz posted on X that Hamas murdered a German hostage, Shani Louk after Israel reported her death.[20] Hamas released a video of three female hostages pleading for Netanyahu to engage in a ceasefire.[21] On October 31, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari announced the IDF informed the families of 240 hostages Hamas is holding. This number is not final.[22]


Diplomacy: Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian mentioned Iran’s intentions to send humanitarian aid to Gaza through Egypt, and condemned the attacks of Israel on Gaza.[23] On October 21, a peace summit was held in Cairo, Egypt to address the conflict in Gaza in which UN Secretary-General António Guterres reaffirmed his plea for Gaza to receive immediate and continuous humanitarian aid, Hamas to release all hostages, and for committed efforts to avoid the spread of violence.[24] On October 27, the UN General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution in a 120-14 vote calling for an immediate humanitarian truce that will lead to the “cessation of hostilities” between Israel and Hamas. There were 45 abstentions. The assembly failed to adopt an amendment condemning the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack in an 85-55 vote, with 23 abstentions.[25]


Information: On October 13, Subhi al-Tufayli, founder and first general secretary of the Lebanese Hezbollah, chastised Ali Khamenei and the Iranian regime, blaming them for collaborating with the US, being servants of the enemy, and the murderers of Muslim children.[26]

The IDF Home Front Command ordered residents living in residential areas near the Gaza Strip to remain close to bomb shelters until further notice.[27] The head of the IDF Home Front Command said on October 30 that “this war will be long, weeks or months.”[28]


Military: The IDF is readying for the next stage of the conflict, including a ground invasion of Gaza. Regular and reserve units have been deployed and are taking part in training exercises. According to the Lieutenant Colonel of the Nahal Brigade, Yair Zuckerman, “The Nahal Brigade has been training in recent days and is ready for any mission. We are facing the enemy with determination, looking into the enemy’s eyes and telling them ‘no more.’ ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ (the people of Israel live), and we represent this generation, we will prevail.”[29] The Israeli Air Force (IAF) attacked Hamas targets including an operational headquarters, anti-tank weapons, and underground infrastructure.[30] IDF fighter jets killed Muhamad Qatmash, the Deputy Head of Hamas' Artillery Array in the Gaza Strip on October 22.[31] An IDF tank “accidentally fired and hit an Egyptian post adjacent to the border in the area of Kerem Shalom” on October 22.[32] On October 23, IDF declared it struck hundreds of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip while preventing rocket attacks from Lebanon on the northern border.[33] On the next day, the IDF declared to carry out strikes on three Hamas battalion commanders and targeted more than 400 military targets in the Gaza Strip. The IDF claimed it is preparing for a ground operation, pending political approval.[34]


On October 25, IDF reported fighting on the northern border launched from Lebanon and Syria. The retaliatory attacks were in response to an Israeli UAV targeting two Lebanese terrorist cells. IDF fighter jets struck Syrian Army targets and mortar launchers.[35] On October 26, the IDF reported a total of 7,000 rockets fired at Israel since the beginning of the war. Israel increased investments in defense capabilities, bomb shelters, defense training, and active missile defense.[36] On October 27, IDF ground forces reported limited ground operations in the Gaza Strip, against several targets associated with Hamas. They acknowledged the killing of Madhath Mubashar, commander of the Hamas’ western Khan Yunis Battalion.[37] On October 28, the IDF denounced the use of the Shifa Hospital by the forces of Hamas as an operational center. On the northern border with Lebanon, the Israeli army responded to Hezbollah attacks on its infrastructure. Overnight, IDF forces expanded the ground activities, entering the northern Gaza Strip.[38] On October 29, IDF reported striking 450 terror targets, in coordination with the Israeli Air Force, as part of the intensification of the Gaza Strip incursion. Hezbollah continued to attack the northern border, with the Israeli response that targeted infrastructure and military posts.[39] On October 30, IDF reported an increase in the operations plans on the Gaza Strip, by additional infantry, armored corps, engineers, and artillery. The Israeli forces claimed to have killed dozens of Hamas terrorists, and struck 600 terrorist targets, in collaboration with IAF support, including the Hamas naval forces, and the anti-tank missile unit commanders, Jamil Baba, and Muhammad Safadi.[40] On October 31, the IAF intercepted a surface-to-surface missile in the area of the Red Sea, the first operational interception of this nature by the Arrow Aerial Defense System since the war started.[41] On October 31, Palestinian media reported hundreds of casualties in an Israeli airstrike in Jabaliya. The incident and casualty numbers are unconfirmed.[42]


Economic: Since June 2007, Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip after Hamas gained power, negatively impacting the Gazan economy. In 2022, the unemployment rate was 46.6 percent and 62.5 percent among youth.[43] Approximately 64 percent of Gaza households are considered food insecure and require assistance, amounting to over one point 3 million residents.[44] As of 2022, the poverty rate in Gaza was 61 percent.[45]


Day/Time of event: October 31, 2023


What is the current threat:

  • There is a roughly even chance Hamas will release more non-Israeli hostages, likely seeking to de-escalate tensions and allow for increased humanitarian aid to Gaza. They will likely attempt to portray a sense of goodwill, very likely aiming to gain public support from sympathizers to pro-Palestinian causes. Hamas will very likely release more videos of Israeli hostages, likely attempting to turn Israeli public opinion in favor of a ceasefire and increase support against Netanyahu’s administration.

  • The IAF will almost certainly continue carrying out coordinated bombings of Hamas targets, very likely assessing the group's response and reactions before an IDF ground invasion. The continuous spread of acts of violence will very likely increase the possibility of spillover. The IAF will likely launch preemptive strikes in Syrian airports, targeting suspected weapons shipments from Iran to Middle Eastern proxies, particularly Hezbollah.

  • Diplomatic efforts will unlikely produce a joint agreement towards containing acts of violence. Protests worldwide condemning the international community’s stance will almost certainly prevail.

  • Unemployment in Gaza will almost certainly continue to increase, as citizens very likely shelter in place to avoid IAF airstrikes. Hamas will likely leverage rising unemployment rates to host recruitment events, very likely portraying themselves as a humanitarian organization. This will likely result in increasing recruitment for Hamas operations, very likely using civilian recruits to deter IDF airstrikes on humanitarian infrastructure. Hamas will likely use civilian infrastructure to conceal its military and operational assets.


Who will it directly impact:

  • Israel civilians

  • IDF personnel

  • Gaza civilians

  • Hamas fighters

  • Hamas hostages

  • Hezbollah fighters

  • Aid workers

  • Healthcare personnel

  • UN personnel

  • NGO personnel

  • Egyptian military personnel


The Counter Threat Center (CTC) is providing regular updates on the evolving situation and war between Israel and Hamas. This report is being provided under our Global Public Good mandate to assist in providing situational awareness and actionable intelligence to protect and save lives. If you or your organization need intelligence reports of this kind and more to protect you, your people, or your organization please subscribe. Try us for 7 days free. We work each day to detect, deter, and defeat terrorism and threats that cause harm through intelligence and other solutions. Click here to learn more: https://www.counterthreatcenter.com/subscriptions

 

[1] Fires in Israel and the Gaza strip by Pierre Markuse licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2023)

[2] MSF, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[5] Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel | Flash Update #14, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, October 2023, https://www.ochaopt.org/content/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-14?_gl=1*1q0yij8*_ga*MTcxMTMzMTY0Ny4xNjk3ODk4Mzg0*_ga_E60ZNX2F68*MTY5Nzg5ODM4NC4xLjEuMTY5Nzg5ODQxOC4yNi4wLjA

[6] IDF, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[7] IFRC, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[9] Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel | Flash Update #22 [EN/AR/HE], reliefweb, October 2023, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-22-enarhe

[10] NetBlocks, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[11] Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel | Flash Update #22 [EN/AR/HE], reliefweb, October 2023, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-22-enarhe

[12] Gaza: 3,195 children killed in three weeks surpasses annual number of children killed in conflict zones since 2019, reliefweb, October 2023, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/gaza-3195-children-killed-three-weeks-surpasses-annual-number-children-killed-conflict-zones-2019

[13] Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel | Flash Update #22 [EN/AR/HE], reliefweb, October 2023, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-22-enarhe

[14] IDFSpokesperson, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[15] IDF, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[16] Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General - on the situation in the Middle East, Cairo Summit for Peace, October 2023

[17] CTG Threat Hunter 1 via Telegram

[18] Ibid

[19] Idfonline, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[20] Bundeskanzler, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[21] MarioNawfal, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[22] Manniefabian, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[23] Amirabdolahian,from X, via CyberHUMINT

[24] At Cairo Peace Summit, Guterres stresses need for sustained humanitarian aid to Gaza, UN News, October 2023, https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/10/1142642

[25] General Assembly Adopts Resolution Calling for Immediate, Sustained Humanitarian Truce Leading to Cessation of Hostilities between Israel, Hamas, UN News, October 2023, https://press.un.org/en/2023/ga12548.doc.htm

[26] CTG Threat Hunter 1 via Linkedify

[27] Manniefabian, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[28] Ibid

[29] CTG Threat Hunter 1 via Telegram

[30] IAF, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[31] IDF Fighter Jets Neutralize Muhamad Qatmash, the Deputy Head of Hamas’ Artillery Array in Gaza, IDF, October 2023

[32] Ibid

[34] Ibid

[35] Ibid

[36] Ibid

[37] Ibid

[38] Ibid

[39] Ibid

[40] Ibid

[41] IAF, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[42] Manniefabian, from X, via CyberHUMINT

[43] Gaza Strip | The humanitarian impact of 15 years of the blockade - June 2022 [EN/AR/HE], reliefweb, June 2022, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/gaza-strip-humanitarian-impact-15-years-blockade-june-2022-enarhe

[44] HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE PLAN OPT, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, October 2023, https://www.ochaopt.org/sites/default/files/HRP_2023.pdf?_gl=1*gzndrt*_ga*NDcxMTM3NDI3LjE2ODU2MjE3OTY.*_ga_E60ZNX2F68*MTY5ODA2ODUxMi40LjEuMTY5ODA3MDE5NC42MC4wLjA.

[45] WFP Palestine: Gaza Market Monitoring - Flash Update #2 (October 2023), reliefweb, October 2023, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/wfp-palestine-gaza-market-monitoring-flash-update-2-october-2023

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