Operation Iron Swords (Updated to 1 p.m., February 20, 2024)

IDF attack in eastern Rafah (QudsN X account, February 19, 2024).

IDF attack in eastern Rafah (QudsN X account, February 19, 2024).

Gazans waiting in the Sheikh Ajlin area (southwest of Gaza City) for the arrival of the trucks bringing humanitarian aid.

Gazans waiting in the Sheikh Ajlin area (southwest of Gaza City) for the arrival of the trucks bringing humanitarian aid.

Gazans flee following the shots fired by IDF forces (al-Arabi's YouTube channel, February 20, 2024)

Gazans flee following the shots fired by IDF forces (al-Arabi's YouTube channel, February 20, 2024)

Gazans wait in line at a bakery in Deir al-Balah.

Gazans wait in line at a bakery in Deir al-Balah.

Attack on a military structure in the Blida area (IDF spokesperson, February 20, 2024)

Attack on a military structure in the Blida area (IDF spokesperson, February 20, 2024)

Attack on a terrorist facility in the al-Adeisseh area (IDF spokesperson, February 19, 2024)

Attack on a terrorist facility in the al-Adeisseh area (IDF spokesperson, February 19, 2024)

The Israeli vehicle that was hit by an IED near Homesh (QudsN X account, February 19, 2024; Shehab X account, February 19, 2024)

The Israeli vehicle that was hit by an IED near Homesh (QudsN X account, February 19, 2024; Shehab X account, February 19, 2024)

The ship sinks to the bottom of the sea following the attack (from a video published on Sir Chilliebean’s X account, February 19, 2024)

The ship sinks to the bottom of the sea following the attack (from a video published on Sir Chilliebean’s X account, February 19, 2024)

Northern Arena, Israeli Casualties, Rocket Fire

Overview[1]
  • The southern arena: IDF forces continued its operations in Khan Yunis and Nasser Hospital. In Gaza City, Palestinian media reported intensive IDF activity in the Zeitoun neighborhood in the southeast of the city, adding that many residents had left the area.
  • According to unofficial data, since October 7, 2023, approximately 1,500 Israeli civilians and security personnel have been killed, 575 of them soldiers and officers; 130 civilian and military hostages are still being held by the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip; 123 hostages have been released.
  • Negotiations for a hostage deal: The IDF spokesperson published a video from a street camera in Khan Yunis which was located by IDF forces. The video shows the kidnapped Israeli mother and her two small children arriving in Khan Yunis on October 7, 2023, the day of the Hamas terrorist attack and massacre. The IDF spokesperson noted there was considerable concern and worry regarding their current situation. A Hamas delegation led by Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, arrived in Cairo. A senior Hamas member of the delegation to Cairo again reiterated Hamas’ conditions for a deal: the cessation of hostilities, the return of residents to their homes and the withdrawal of IDF forces from the Gaza Strip.
  • The situation in the Gaza Strip: Reports about the difficult situation in the Gaza Strip continue. The UN coordinator for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip said that according to the UN, expanding the military operation to Rafah would have extremely severe humanitarian consequences.
  • The northern arena: During the past day, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for three attacks using anti-tank missiles and rockets. In response to the detection of a UAV in the Lower Galilee, Israeli Air Force fighter jets attacked sites in the Sidon area. Hezbollah reported damage to warehouses belonging to a generator manufacturing company and an iron manufacturing factory The Lebanese foreign ministry called on all countries of the world to restore stability and peace to south Lebanon and condemn the Israeli attacks.
  • Judea and Samaria: On the evening of February 19, 2024, Palestinians threw an IED at an Israeli vehicle northwest of Nablus, injuring one passenger. Following the attack, the security forces operated in the village of Burqa. According to Palestinian media, following the attack Israeli settlers entered the village and set fire to two cars and two houses.
  • Iran: Hossein-Amir Abdollahian, the Iranian foreign minister, sent a communiqué to Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, alerting him to a possible Israeli action in Rafah.
  • The pro-Iranian militias: The Houthis continued attacking ships in the Red Sea. During the past day they hit a British ship. The EU officially launched an operation to help protect the international shipping lanes in the Red Sea.
The Southern Arena
  • Palestinian media reported IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip during the past day. In Gaza City there were massive attacks in the Zeitoun neighborhood, located in the southeast of the city. In the central Gaza Strip, the Israeli Air Force attacked in the Nuseirat, Bureij and Maghazi refugee camps and Deir al-Balah. In Khan Yunis, IDF forces continued operations in Nasser and Amal hospitals. IDF attacks were reported in the west, center and southeast of Khan Yunis. In Rafah, IDF forces attacked in the center of the city (Wafa, February 20, 2024).
 An al-Jazeera presenter describes the IDF attacks in northern Gaza City and the Jabalia area (right), and in the Khan Yunis area (left) (al-Jazeera YouTube channel, February 19, 2024)    An al-Jazeera presenter describes the IDF attacks in northern Gaza City and the Jabalia area (right), and in the Khan Yunis area (left) (al-Jazeera YouTube channel, February 19, 2024)
An al-Jazeera presenter describes the IDF attacks in northern Gaza City and the Jabalia area (right), and in the Khan Yunis area (left) (al-Jazeera YouTube channel, February 19, 2024)
  • The southern Gaza Strip: IDF forces continued the heavy fighting in western Khan Yunis. During the past day, the forces killed dozens of terrorists, some of them with the assistance of the Israeli Air Force. Directed by the ground forces, the Air Force attacked a Hamas munitions warehouse. During the attack, secondary explosions indicated the presence of large quantities of weapons at the site (IDF spokesperson, February 20, 2024).
Attacks on Hamas launch sites (IDF website, February 20, 2024)     Attacks on Hamas launch sites (IDF website, February 20, 2024)
Attacks on Hamas launch sites (IDF website, February 20, 2024)
Civil defense teams in Rafah work to extinguish fires after an IDF attack in the city (Paldf X account, February 19, 2024)     IDF attack in eastern Rafah (QudsN X account, February 19, 2024).
Right: IDF attack in eastern Rafah (QudsN X account, February 19, 2024). Left: Civil defense teams in Rafah work to extinguish fires after an IDF attack in the city (Paldf X account, February 19, 2024)
  • The central Gaza Strip: IDF forces continued operations in the area, killing a number of terrorists (IDF spokesperson, February 20, 2024).
  • Gaza City: During the past day, Palestinian media reported massive attacks in the Zeitoun neighborhood, located in the southeast of the city. According to reports, the IDF forces entered the neighborhood from the direction of Tel al-Hawa, to the west. It was also reported that the Israeli Navy fired at the west of the city and tanks fired at the Shejaiya neighborhood (Wafa, February 20, 2024). According to reports, following the massive attacks in the Zeitoun neighborhood and the southeast of Gaza, residents began to flee towards the west of the city to find a safer place to stay (Shehab X account, February 20, 2024). An al-Arabi TV correspondent documented hundreds of residents waiting in the Sheikh Ajlin area (southwest of Gaza City) for the arrival of trucks bringing humanitarian aid. He claimed IDF forces fired at the residents, who were forced to disperse and seek shelter (al-Arabi YouTube channel, February 20, 2024).
Gazans fleeing the Zeitoun neighborhood and southeast Gaza towards the west of the city (Shehab X account, February 20, 2024)     Israeli Air Force strikes in southeast Gaza City (QudsN X account, February 20, 2024).
Right: Israeli Air Force strikes in southeast Gaza City (QudsN X account, February 20, 2024). Left: Gazans fleeing the Zeitoun neighborhood and southeast Gaza towards the west of the city (Shehab X account, February 20, 2024)
 Gazans flee following the shots fired by IDF forces (al-Arabi's YouTube channel, February 20, 2024)    Gazans waiting in the Sheikh Ajlin area (southwest of Gaza City) for the arrival of the trucks bringing humanitarian aid.
Right: Gazans waiting in the Sheikh Ajlin area (southwest of Gaza City) for the arrival of the trucks bringing humanitarian aid. Left: Gazans flee following the shots fired by IDF forces (al-Arabi’s YouTube channel, February 20, 2024)
The Palestinian perspective on the fighting
  • Khalil al-Haya, a member of the Hamas political bureau and deputy chairman of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said in an interview that despite the casualties among the civilians, the loss of infrastructure and the [alleged] attempt to displace and starve the Palestinians to death, Israel had “failed miserably” and had not achieved its goals of returning the hostages and destroying the capabilities of the “resistance” [terrorist organizations]. He claimed the Palestinian people continued to embrace the “resistance,” which pursued the IDF with its [military] capabilities, strong willpower and determination, and did not surrender. He claimed that what awaited the IDF in Rafah was what it had already met in the northern and central Gaza Strip (al-Jazeera TV website, February 19, 2024).
  • Interviewed by al-Alam TV in its studio in Tehran, Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas member, claimed that the attacks and destruction of the infrastructure for the past nearly 140 days did not deter the Palestinian “resistance,” which still stood firm on the battlefield and fought the enemy, who suffered loss of life and armored vehicles every day. He claimed the “resistance” operations were conducted according to plan and based on the unity of command, and the activities on the ground were conducted in “good, satisfactory collaboration” with the other “organizations,” the result of experience gained during the exercises they had carried out over the past two years. He claimed Israel had failed to achieve any of the goals it had set for its military operation and had not destroyed the “resistance” or Hamas. He claimed as “proof” that two days ago rockets were launched from several areas, including in the northern Gaza Strip, and the “organizations” continued to fight the IDF.
  • Regarding Israel’s plan to invade Rafah, Hamdan claimed that Israel had thought that an invasion of the Gaza Strip was possible, and therefore the IDF tried to invade it from the north, but “found resistance and [allegedly] retreated.” He claimed Israel then changed its invasion plan and attacked in other locations, and “thanks to the resistance’s activity,” discovered that the concept of a full invasion of the Gaza Strip, as had occurred in the wars of the 1960s and 1970s, was not possible. Therefore, the IDF changed its plan to attacking in specific areas, completing the activity, and moving on to other areas. Regarding the reasons for the IDF’s delay in entering Rafah, he claimed the first was the war of attrition waged by the “resistance operations” of the past four and a half months [sic], and the second was that Israel wanted to bypass a direct invasion of Rafah by entering through Egyptian territory from the Philadelphia Axis, but the Egyptians had rejected it, and that was what delayed the massive invasion of Rafah. He also noted that the IDF forces did not remain in the Gaza Strip, rather they entered areas and then withdrew (al-Alam TV website, February 19, 2024).
  • Hamdan said that Iran had played a role from the beginning at all levels, and “everyone” was aware of the extent of support that Iran provided for the “resistance” [terrorism] in “Palestine” and the region, and the extent of its support for the firm stand of the Palestinian people. He added that today it was difficult to talk about details, but the scene was clear, and [the Gaza] front and the “resistance axis”[2] had become more effective and their activities were more coordinated against Israel, meaning that the future liberation of “Palestine” was not far away (al-Alam TV website, February 19, 2024).
  • Haitham Abu al-Ghazlan, a senior member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), claimed that the “resistance” continued to confront Israel’s “war machine” and had stood firm together with the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip for five months [sic] without stopping or surrendering, and was preventing Israel from achieving its goals. He claimed Israel’s statements regarding eliminating the “resistance” were attempts to wage psychological warfare against the Palestinians, but Israel would not succeed because the “resistance” continued to demonstrate “courage” throughout the Gaza Strip and documented all of its military operations, which it presented for “everyone” to see (Watan, February 20, 2024).
  • The Qatari al-Arabi channel, which has correspondents in Israel and the Gaza Strip, reported on the possibility of [the IDF’s] expanding ground operations to the Rafah area. According to Ahmed al-Darawsha, the channel’s correspondent in Jerusalem who reviews the Israeli media for viewers, so far the IDF’s operational plan of action for Rafah was not yet ready and had not even been discussed in the war cabinet. He also claimed that [the upcoming month of] Ramadan was why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had postponed the activity until the middle of April 2024. Furthermore, he reported, Israel had informed Egypt that it would not start an operation in Rafah without prior coordination (al-Arabi YouTube channel, February 20, 2024).
Israeli casualties
  • According to unofficial data, since October 7, 2023, approximately 1,500 Israeli people have been killed. According to the IDF spokesperson, 575 of them are soldiers and officers (232 since the start of the ground maneuver on 27 October, 2023); 130 civilian and military hostages are still being held by the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip; 123 hostages have been released.
The issue of the hostages and a ceasefire agreement
  • The IDF spokesperson published a video from a street camera in Khan Yunis which was located by IDF forces. The video shows a kidnapped mother and her two small children as they arrived in Khan Yunis on October 7, 2023. The IDF spokesperson stated that there was considerable concern and worry regarding their current situation (IDF spokesperson, February 19, 2024).
  • On February 20, 2024, a delegation headed by Isma’il Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau, arrived in Cairo (Hamas Telegram channel, February 20, 2024).
  • Khalil al-Haya, a member of the Hamas political bureau, claimed that Israel formulated the Paris proposal in a way that served its goals, and had retreated from the essential agreements, including the cessation of “aggression” and withdrawal from the Strip. Israel also rejected the return of the displaced persons and removed everything that might indicate it would end the war and the “aggression.” He claimed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was working to extend the campaign while refusing to stop the “aggression,” bring in aid and return the displaced people to their homes, which meant he was not serious about the negotiations. Al-Haya said that Hamas would not yield to any political or military pressure exerted on it by Israel or any other party. He claimed Hamas had agreed to move forward with the negotiations after receiving promises from several sources that it would lead to a cessation of “aggression,” but in recent days there had been a retreat from the promises (al-Jazeera TV website, February 19, 2024).
  • Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas member, said that attempts were being made to bridge the gap between the positions of the two sides. The Hamas position emphasized that it was impossible to sign an agreement that would not lead to a permanent and absolute ceasefire, the return of the displaced to their homes, the beginning of reconstruction without Israeli restrictions, and the lifting of the “siege.” He said that when they spoke about a complete and comprehensive ceasefire, it included the cessation of military operations and patrol flights over the Gaza Strip, the complete withdrawal of all IDF vehicles and soldiers from the Gaza Strip, and a return to the status quo ante in the Gaza Strip. Regarding the possibility of reaching a ceasefire agreement , Hamdan said that it did not appear there would be anything new soon, but that talks were still taking place. If, however, the Israeli position did not change, there was no prospect of achieving anything. He claimed there would be no agreement with the Israeli side unless the demands of the “resistance” were met. Regarding Minister Benny Gantz’s statements that if Hamas did not release the hostages, Israel would invade Rafah, Hamdan said that his statements were directed mainly at the mediators, because Israel was exerting pressure to reach an agreement before the month of Ramadan (al-Alam TV website, February 19, 2024).
  • Haitham Abu al-Ghazlan, a senior PIJ member, blamed Israel and the United States for the failure to reach a deal that would lead to the release of prisoners and a ceasefire, and claimed the PIJ was open to any initiative that would lead to an end of the Israeli “aggression.” He claimed his organization showed “great flexibility” in some matters, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not care about the issue of the Israeli hostages (Watan, February 20, 2024).
  •  A senior PIJ member, who asked to remain anonymous, told the al-Najah News website that the negotiations had stalled because of Israel’s intransigence and evasion, but had not stopped. He emphasized that from the first moment they had related positively to all the proposals and initiatives for ending the Israeli “aggression” in the Gaza Strip. He added that their demands were clear and the mediators had been informed of them, but so far there was nothing new. As for the return of the displaced persons to the northern Gaza Strip, which was one of their most important demands, he said the mediators had not informed the ministry of Israel’s agreement (al-Najah News website, February 19, 2024).

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The Gaza Strip
Palestinian casualties
  • The Hamas-controlled ministry of health in the Gaza Strip reported at 11:45 a.m., February 20, 2024, that during the past day 103 Gazans had been killed and 142 wounded, bringing the number of dead since the beginning of the war to 29,195 and the number of wounded to 69,170 (Ministry of health in Gaza Facebook page, February 20, 2024).
  • The ministry of health reported that 18 patients had been evacuated from Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis to field hospitals and that 118 patients remained. According to the ministry, the situation there was still difficult, claiming there was no electricity, water, oxygen, baby milk and food, and no appropriate medical supervision for patients staying in the hospital complex. The ministry called on international organizations to act immediately to end the IDF’s military activity in the hospital and restore the hospital’s operations to normal (ministry of health in Gaza Facebook page, February 20, 2024).
The situation in the Gaza Strip
  • The Palestinian Red Crescent claimed that IDF forces had damaged the water purification facility at Amal Hospital in Khan Yunis and it no longer functioned. As a result, the amount of water available would be sufficient for only three days (Shehab X account, February 19, 2024).
  • Al-Ghad TV interviewed Gazans who had been waiting in line for more than four hours at a bakery in Deir al-Balah. According to the bakery owner, more than half a million residents currently lived in the city and the demand was greater than the supply because they were unable to produce the necessary quantities of baked goods (al-Ghad TV, February 19, 2024).
 The owner of a bakery in Deir al-Balah says the demand is greater than what he is capable of supplying (al-Ghad TV, February 19, 2024)     Gazans wait in line at a bakery in Deir al-Balah.
Right: Gazans wait in line at a bakery in Deir al-Balah. Left: The owner of a bakery in Deir al-Balah says the demand is greater than what he is capable of supplying
(al-Ghad TV, February 19, 2024)
  • Regarding the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, Khalil al-Haya, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said that the situation of the Gazans was “catastrophic,” “imposed by Israel’s [alleged] policy of ‘genocide’ by means of starvation,” and that the world and international organizations had failed a moral test in the face of “Israel’s crimes” by not forcing it to provide aid to civilians (al-Jazeera channel website, February 19, 2024).
  • On the sidelines of the European Union foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, Sigrid Kach, the UN chief coordinator for humanitarian affairs and reconstruction in Gaza, said there was great support for the reconstruction mission and efforts on the ground. She said the UN had made it clear that the expansion of Israel’s military operation to Rafah would have severe humanitarian consequences for “innocent residents.” She also stated that the allegations about the involvement of UNRWA employees in the October 7, 2023 terrorist attack and massacre were terrible for the UN but apparently there was currently no substitute for the agency’s role in providing aid to the Gaza Strip (Reuters, February 19, 2024).

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The Northern Arena
Hezbollah attacks
  • During the past day, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for three attacks by launching anti-tank missiles and rockets (Hezbollah’s combat information Telegram channel, February 19-20, 2024). On February 19, 2024, a UAV launched by Hezbollah from Lebanese territory was identified in the Lower Galilee, without the aerial defense systems being activated. The IDF is investigating the circumstances of the incident (IDF spokesperson, February 19, 2024).
IDF retaliatory attacks
  • In response to the launch of the UAV at the Lower Galilee, fighter jets attacked two Hezbollah weapons depots near Sidon. The IDF also attacked terrorist facilities in Meiss al-Jabal and al-Adeisseh (IDF spokesperson, February 19, 2024). When several Hezbollah operatives were identified in the Mirwahin area, fighter jets attacked the facility (IDF spokesperson, February 19, 2024).
 Attack on a military structure in the Blida area (IDF spokesperson, February 20, 2024)    Attack on a terrorist target and a launching post in the Yaroun area.
Right: Attack on a terrorist target and a launching post in the Yaroun area. Left: Attack on a military structure in the Blida area (IDF spokesperson, February 20, 2024)
Attack on a terrorist facility in the al-Adeisseh area (IDF spokesperson, February 19, 2024)       Attack on a terrorist facility in the al-Adeisseh area (IDF spokesperson, February 19, 2024)
Attack on a terrorist facility in the al-Adeisseh area (IDF spokesperson, February 19, 2024)
  • The al-Mayadeen network reported that two airstrikes carried out by Israel in the village of Al-Ghazieh, south of Sidon, had hit the warehouses of a generator factory and an iron factory (al-Mayadeen, February 19, 2024).
Airstrikes in al-Ghazieh (Right: Bassel’s X account, February 19, 2024; Left: Samira Mohsen’s X account, February 19, 2024)     Airstrikes in al-Ghazieh (Right: Bassel’s X account, February 19, 2024; Left: Samira Mohsen’s X account, February 19, 2024)
Airstrikes in al-Ghazieh (Right: Bassel’s X account, February 19, 2024; Left: Samira Mohsen’s X account, February 19, 2024)
  • In response to the Israeli airstrikes, the Lebanese foreign ministry issued a call to all countries interested in restoring stability and calm to south Lebanon to condemn the ongoing Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon, the most recent of which was in al-Ghazieh. It also called on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to stop its attempts to expand the conflict and drag Lebanon into war (Lebanese foreign ministry X account, February 20, 2024).
  • Nabil Qaouq, a member of Hezbollah’s Central Council, said Hezbollah was engaged in a real war of attrition along the border with Israel because Israel was not deterred by UN resolutions and International Court of Justice rulings. He claimed what Israel feared most today was a confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and they were still imposing “equations” on Israel. He said the Israelis tried to hide, but the “resistance” surprised them and damaged their hidden tanks with high-quality missiles. He also said the “resistance” was taking Israel’s threats seriously, planning for all possibilities and preparing “surprises” for Israel. He noted that their response to the “massacre” in Nabatieh and Sawana and the attack on Kiryat Shmona were initial rather than final (al-Nashra, February 19, 2024).
The Palestinians and Hezbollah attacks
  • Senior Hamas figure Osama Hamdan said Hezbollah’s activities in Lebanon had three important results: they asserted that the campaign against Israel was the main strategic campaign in the region and that the “resistance” was organized in the campaign. The second was that by igniting the front in the north, they had forced Israel to concentrate several brigades and battalions in the area, which affected its war effort and reduced the pressure on the Gaza Strip. In addition, it led to the displacement of 100,000 Israelis, putting pressure on Israeli decision-makers. The third was that the “resistance” was still in position, clashing with Israel, and its capabilities were increasing as events unfolded, causing Israel to be wary of any development in the “aggression” against the Gaza Strip (al-Alam TV website, February 19, 2024).
The Lebanese government
  • The Kuwaiti daily al-Jarida reported from “sources” that after Lebanon had refused to respond to the French proposal regarding a solution to the situation in Lebanon, and after Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah had criticized it, France was trying to amend the proposal and officially submit it to Lebanon. The proposal will be combined with the efforts of American Mediator Amos Hochstein. The “sources” noted that Lebanon had also Britain’s proposal to erect observation towers in south Lebanon, because according to the plan, the towers would be directed into Lebanese territory and would be capable of eavesdropping for a distance of 40 kilometers [about 25 miles] (al-Jarida, February 20, 2024).
Israel, Judea and Samaria
Terrorist attacks
  • On the evening of February 19, 2024, Palestinians threw an IED at an Israeli vehicle carrying five Israelis traveling from Homesh toward Shavei Shomron (northwest of Nablus). One passenger sustained superficial injuries (Israeli media, February 19, 2024). Following the attack, Israeli security forces operated overnight in the village of Burqa (northwest of Nablus), searching buildings and questioning Palestinian suspects (IDF spokesperson’s X account, February 20, 2024). According to the Palestinian media, following the attack, Israeli settlers entered the village and set fire to two cars and two houses (al-Jazeera TV, February 20, 2024).
The Israeli vehicle that was hit by an IED near Homesh (QudsN X account, February 19, 2024; Shehab X account, February 19, 2024)     The Israeli vehicle that was hit by an IED near Homesh (QudsN X account, February 19, 2024; Shehab X account, February 19, 2024)
The Israeli vehicle that was hit by an IED near Homesh (QudsN X account, February 19, 2024; Shehab X account, February 19, 2024)
Counterterrorism activities
  • The Israeli security forces continued their counterterrorism activities in Judea and Samaria, detaining 11 wanted Palestinians. Since the beginning of the war, about 3,150 wanted Palestinians have been detained, more than 1,350 of them Hamas operatives (IDF spokesman’s X account, February 20, 2024). During the night of February 19, 2024, the Israeli security forces operated in several locations throughout Judea and Samaria. In Ramallah, they seized funds intended to finance terrorist activity; in Birzeit (north of Ramallah), they seized weapons; and in Rantis (northwest of Ramallah), they detained a wanted Palestinian and seized weapons (IDF spokesperson’s X account, February 20, 2024).

Palestinians throw stones and Molotov cocktails at IDF forces at the end of their activity in Ramallah (QudsN X account, February 20, 2024)
Palestinians throw stones and Molotov cocktails at IDF forces at the end of their activity in Ramallah (QudsN X account, February 20, 2024)

Reactions to the restriction on access to the Temple Mount during the month of Ramadan
  • Reactions to the Israeli government’s decision to restrict the access of Israeli Arab citizens to the Temple Mount during the month of Ramadan continued. Haitham Abu al-Ghazlan, a senior PIJ member, said the Israeli government’s “conspiracies” to restrict the arrival of worshippers were leading the region to a dangerous escalation. He stressed that the limitation meant that the Israeli government had directly targeted al-Aqsa Mosque as part of a systematic displacement and Judaization plan, which it sought to implement as part of the war against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. He called on the Palestinian people and the Arab and Muslim nations to act at all levels and by all means possible to defend the holy sites, especially al-Aqsa Mosque (Watan, February 20, 2024).
Palestinian Authority (PA)
  • During the weekly cabinet meeting, PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said that Israel still delayed the transfer of tax revenues and that so far nothing had been transferred to them, which he claimed had not happened during the past 30 years. He said that what had been agreed on with Norway was that Israel would transfer the sum transferred by the PA to the Gaza Strip to a special account in Norway. He said the arrangement did not grant them full rights to their money and did not solve the financial distress currently facing  the PA (Wafa, February 20, 2024).

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Iran
  • Hossein-Amir Abdollahian, Iranian foreign minister, sent a communiqué to UN Secretary General António Guterres warning of a possible Israeli operation in Rafah. He wrote that any military attack in Rafah would be another stage in the [alleged] “genocide” of the Palestinians and that the UN had to meet its responsibility to prevent the continuation of the “crimes” against the Palestinians who had found refuge in Rafah. Abdollahian also called on the UN to act immediately to stop the [alleged] “crimes” against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, to transfer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and to demand that the member states of the organization refrain from cooperating with Israel (IRNA, February 19, 2024).
  • On February 19, 2024, Abdollahian spoke by phone with his Malaysian counterpart, Mohammad Hasan, regarding a proposal for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to deliberate the situation in the Gaza Strip ahead of the month of Ramadan (Fars, February 19, 2024).
Pro-Iranian militias
Yemen
  • Yahya Saria, spokesman for the Houthi armed forces, said the Yemeni army naval forces had carried out two attacks on two American ships in the Gulf of Aden using naval missiles that hit them directly (Yahya Saria’s Telegram channel, February 19, 2024).
  • The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that on the evening of February 18, 2024, two anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen at the British ship MV Rubymar, which flew the Belize flag. It was also reported that one missile hit the ship, causing damage and that coalition forces had responded to the ship’s [SOS] call and transferred its crew to a nearby port (CENTCOM X account, February 19, 2024). The damaged ship sank following the attack (Sir Chilliebean’s X account, February 19, 2024).
The ship sinks to the bottom of the sea following the attack (from a video published on Sir Chilliebean’s X account, February 19, 2024)     The ship sinks to the bottom of the sea following the attack (from a video published on Sir Chilliebean’s X account, February 19, 2024)
The ship sinks to the bottom of the sea following the attack (from a video published on Sir Chilliebean’s X account, February 19, 2024)
  • The Houthi media reported that the United States and Britain were carrying out airstrikes in the al-Jabana area in al-Hudaydah in western Yemen (al-Masirah, February 19, 2024). Yahya Saria later posted a video documenting the interception of a United States Army UAV on al-Hudaydah (Yahya Saria’s Telegram channel, February 19, 2024).

Video of the downing of the aircraft (Telegram channel, February 19, 2024)
Video of the downing of the aircraft (Telegram channel, February 19, 2024)

  • Houthi spokesman Muhammad Abd Elsalam claimed the American-British “aggression” in attacking Yemen proved the extent of their insistence on defending Israel and giving it more time to continue its “aggression” against the Gaza Strip. He said the United States and Britain had to understand that Yemen’s position was not going to change, Yemen was becoming stronger, adhering to its position and was escalating its operations against Israeli ships or those heading for Israeli ports, and would do so until the “aggression” and siege” of the Gaza Strip ended (Houthi spokesman’s Telegram channel, February 19, 2024).
  • Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, announced that on February 20, 2024, the European Union had officially launched an operation to help protect international shipping in the Red Sea from Houthi attacks. She noted that Europe would ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea by working with its international partners (European Commission president’s X account, February 19, 2024).

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The Arab Arena
Saudi Arabia
  • Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, said in an interview that they were concerned about the escalation of the conflict and its expansion into a regional war, and that he believed Iran was not interested in a broader war. Regarding the situation in Rafah, he said that carrying out a military operation in Rafah, which was the last place of refuge for Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip, was unacceptable and that a ceasefire was needed now more than ever (France24, February 19, 2024).
Qatar
  • The Qatari foreign ministry spokesman referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call on Qatar to pressure Hamas to release the hostages, saying it was another attempt to prolong the war for reasons that were “clear to everyone.” He noted that it was known from the beginning that Qatar was committed to mediating and ending the crisis with the release of the hostages. He stressed that they would continue their mediation efforts and would not comment on such statements. He called for focusing on the negotiations to end the war and achieve security in the region (Qatari foreign ministry spokesman’s X account, February 19, 2024).
The International Arena
United Nations Security Council
  • The UN Security Council convened at Algeria’s request to vote on a resolution that includes an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and a rejection of the forced displacement of Palestinians. The proposal also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, but it does not condemn the Hamas attack. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States ambassador to the UN, said the proposal would not achieve a prolonged lull in the fighting and could jeopardize the negotiations between Israel and Hamas. She added that the United States did not support it, and if it came up for a vote as proposed, it would not be confirmed. As a result, the United States proposed its own draft resolution, noting support for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip as soon as possible and stating that under the current circumstances, a major ground offensive in Rafah would further harm civilians and displace them further, possibly to neighboring countries (Reuters, February 19, 2024).

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[2] Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, the Palestinian terrorist organizations, the Shi'ite Houthis in Yemen and the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq.