October 19, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10888

Arab News Sites: Iran Running Joint Resistance Axis Operations Room; Plans To Open Up Syrian Front Against Israel; Shi'ite Militias In Iraq Threaten To Escalate Attacks On U.S. Targets In Iraq, Syria

October 19, 2023
Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 10888

Against the backdrop of the fighting between Israel and the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip headed by Hamas, following the deadly Hamas attack against the communities adjacent to Gaza on the morning of October 7, 2023, dubbed by Hamas Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, there are increasing reports in the Arab media about growing efforts by Iran and the militias it supports to coordinate an attack against Israel from the Syria and Lebanon borders. This will reportedly be in response to a ground offensive launched by Israeli forces into Gaza or in response to the continued Israeli aerial attacks. These reports are supported by declarations from senior members of the Iran-backed militias. For instance, Abu Alaa Al-Walai, secretary-general of the Iran-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militia Sayyid Al-Shuhada Brigades, announced that his group has a joint operations room with Hamas and that it is following the developments on the ground. Akram Al-Ka’abi, secretary-general of Iraq's Iran-backed Shi'ite Al-Nujaba Movement, announced that there are numerous volunteers prepared to perpetrate suicide attacks against Israel. Another official claimed that 5,000 fighters from various Iraqi militias have already arrived at the border with Israel. In addition to these expressions of readiness to fight against Israel, a Hizbullah official stated that the militias were joining the fray and would act against U.S. targets in Iraq. On October 18 and 19, Shi'ite militias claimed responsibility for attacks on U.S. bases in Syria and Iraq after a period of about a year in which these attacks declined considerably.  

In recent days, the Saudi Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily has reported that senior commanders from the Iran-backed militias have arrived in Lebanon and in Syria in order to gather intelligence and coordinate with local militias in advance of a possible attack. The daily also reported that Iran is running a joint operations room with the Iran-backed militias from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and with Hamas, and that it has consolidated a plan for an attack on Israel, the details of which are not yet known to some of its partners. This report on the establishment of a joint operations room was also confirmed by the pro-Hizbullah Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar and by the Arabic Post news site. There are conflicting reports from the various websites as to whether the attack against Israel will come from only from Syria or from Lebanon as well.

Recent reports on Syrian opposition websites and on Arab websites that oppose the Assad regime state that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the militias it supports have begun to augment their forces on the Syria Lebanon border and to recruit additional operatives to fight against Israel from Lebanon and Palestine.[1]

It is well-known that Iran exploited the civil war that broke out in Syria in 2011 in order to strengthen its presence in the country, both directly and indirectly, in the event of a possible attack on Israel. Since 2011 there has been a significant increase in the presence of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias in Syria, both veteran militias and newly-formed ones.[2] While in recent years there has been a decline in this presence, among other reasons because of the defeat of the rebels who fought against the Syrian regime, this presence is still significant, mainly in Eastern Syria, but also in Damascus and on the coast.

The following is a review of recent reports about joint military activity of the Iran-backed militias in advance of a possible attack against Israel:

Senior Members Of Iran-Backed Shi’ite Militias In Iraq: We Have A Joint Operation Room; We Are Acting Against U.S. Targets In The Region

Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, senior members of the Iran-backed Shi’ite Iraqi militias have been expressing unconditional support for Hamas. These men stress their cooperation and coordination with the Palestinian factions and their readiness to provide them with military support. These elements have threatened action against U.S. targets if the Americans join the fray alongside Israel.[3] Furthermore, some have claimed that they are already on the border with Israel.

For instance, in an interview with the Hizbullah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen television channel, Abu Alaa Al-Walai, secretary-general of the Sayyid Al-Shuhada Brigades, stated, “From the first hours [of the Hamas attack on Israel which started in the early morning hours of October 7], we were in direct and indirect contact with the Palestinian resistance. We have a joint operations room in Iraq, and outside of Iraq, and we will be present wherever necessary, in accordance with our religious obligation.” [4]

On October 15, Abu Alaa Al-Walai posted two photographs of himself allegedly on the border with Israel,[5] and he is not the only one to do so. At around the same time, Ayyoub Fallah Hassan Al-Rabi, aka Abu 'Izra'il, a senior member of Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi (Popular Mobilization Units, PMU), posted photographs on his social media accounts of himself allegedly on the Lebanon-Israel border.[6]

Leader Of Iraqi Militia: We Have Recruited Many Volunteers Who Are Ready To Carry Out Suicide Attacks; We Will Open A Front In The Golan

In a telephone conversation between Akram Al-Ka’abi, secretary-general of Iraq's Shi'ite Al-Nujaba Movement, and Ismail Haniya, head of the Hamas political bureau, Al-Ka’abi said that Al-Nujaba supports the Palestinian resistance “with [its] weapons, equipment and people,” and is ready to provide any assistance required. He added that “all our brothers are waiting impatiently to participate and to help Palestine and Jerusalem. Many brothers who are asking to carry out suicide attacks have volunteered to go to Gaza.”[7]

The movement also hinted that it intends to attack Israel from the Syrian border using its “Golan Liberation Brigade.” A short video posted by the movement on its Telegram channel shows several Al-Nujaba armored vehicles carrying troops, moving along a stretch of land bordered by dirt embankments where a Palestinian flag is visible.  The video was posted with the hashtags “Golan Liberation Brigade” and “Al-Aqsa Flood.”[8] A different IRGC-affiliated Telegram channel posted another video titled “The Front Not Yet Opened (The Golan Brigade).”[9]

In 2017, Al-Nujaba declared the establishment of the “Golan Liberation Army,” perhaps in an attempt to legitimize its military presence in Syria. The movement's spokesman Hashem Al-Musawi declared that this army “comprises special forces that have been trained and equipped,” and added that the Syrian government had to approve its presence in the Golan.[10]

Leader Of Iraqi Militia: We Have 5,000 Fighters On The Border With Israel

Muhammad Al-Tamimi, secretary-general of the Faylaq Al-Wa'ed Al-Sadiq (The Just Promise Force) militia, said that the Islamic resistance factions are ready to take part in the Gaza war “without hesitation” and are waiting for zero hour. He added that 5,000 fighters have already amassed on the Israeli border, from his militia and from Al-Nujaba, the Sayyed Al-Shuhada Brigades, and from the Imam Ali Brigades. A force of 10,000 more fighters is waiting to join its comrades on the border, he added.[11] 

Attacks On U.S. Bases In Iraq, Syria; Hizbullah Brigades: We Are Joining The War

The Iraqi militias increased their threats against the U.S. after the October 17 blast at the Gaza hospital, which the Palestinians blamed on an Israeli airstrike and Israel claimed was the result of a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.[12] On October 18, 2023, the Iraqi militias announced that they had established a joint operations room and started to target U.S. military bases in Iraq and Syria, dubbed the Operations Room in Support of [Operation] Al-Aqsa Flood. The operations room shared a post on its newly-opened Telegram channel announcing its establishment and explaining that it consists of “the Islamic resistance formations in Iraq” and that its goal is to fulfill the “religious obligation” to oversee “operations in support of [Operation] Al-Aqsa Flood.” The statement said that the attacks “herald more operations” against the “American occupation,” and warned Iraqi military and security forces to keep their distance from areas where U.S. forces are located.[13]

Later that day, the channel shared two statements saying that the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” is responsible for two attacks against America's Ayn Al-Assad Airbase in the west of Iraq, and Al-Harir Airbase in the north of the country. It was accompanied by a short video allegedly documenting the attack on the Ayn Al-Assad Airbase, which shows three drones being launched but does not show them hitting the base.[14]

On the following day, October 19, the channel reported that the “Islamic resistance in Iraq” had carried out two additional strikes against American bases, this time in Syria: a rocket attack on Al-Tanf Airbase and a drone attack against the Kuniko oilfield.

On October 18, 2023, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq - Tashkil Al-Waritheen (Formation of the Inheritors) militia, which has recently joined a newly-formed alliance of local militias, called The Islamic Resistance - Uli Al-Ba's Al-Shadid (Those of Great Might).[15] Tashkil Al-Waritheen claimed responsibility for a drone attack that afternoon on the American Al-Harir Airbase. The statement said that the attack was carried out in the framework of “operations in support of [Operation] Al-Aqsa Flood.”[16] It is unclear whether this is the same attack for which the operations room claimed responsibility, or a different one.

On October 18, 2023, following the Iran-backed militia strikes against the U.S. bases in Iraq, the Hizbullah Brigades spokesman, Ja'affar Al-Husseini, addressed his militia’s involvement in these attacks and the issue of the Shi’ite militias' involvement in the war. In an interview on the pro-Hizbullah Lebanese television channel Al-Mayadeen, he stated that the Americans are “central partners in the slaughter of the people of Gaza, so they must bear the consequences,” and added, “The resistance in Iraq has today carried out the first strike, and operations will continue at an increasing rate. Starting today, the resistance in Iraq has begun to deal blows to the bases in Iraq.”[17]

Reports In Arab Media: Iran Is Running A Joint Operations Room Shared By Its Militias And Hamas

In addition to the above statements by officials of the Iraqi militias, in mid-October Arabic media outlets – including outlets that support the resistance axis and those that opposes it – reported that the resistance axis was establishing a joint operations room with Iran, Hizbullah, Iran-backed Shi’ite militias and the Palestinian factions.

On October 16, the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that Iran has established and is operating a joint operations room shared by it, by the militias loyal to it, and by Hamas. The operations room has been gathering intelligence ahead of a possible impending attack against Israel, which according to an Iraqi official will be different from previous attacks.

The report says that “Iraqi sources have confirmed that additional fighters from the Iraqi [resistance] factions are arriving in Syria and Lebanon, alongside reports about the establishment of an operations room belonging to the resistance, consisting of [elements from] three countries together with Hamas.” An Iraqi “official” who preferred to remain anonymous, told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that, “for several days now, information from the field has been delivered to the operations room in an organized fashion.” He added: “We believe something will happen soon.”

The report says that according to information available to the journal, Iranian officers are involved in organizing the operations room's activities along with commanders from Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It says that “over the past several hours, there has been increased interaction between all the factions and Iran, after groups gathered in various areas near the border.” The Iraqi source stressed that there is no possibility that the conflict with Israel will be “routine” if Israeli ground forces enter the Gaza Strip. In addition, he said that Israel has delayed its ground offensive since it knows that Hamas is not alone in this war.

According to the report, members of the Coordination Framework, which is a joint list of several Shi’ite parties belonging to the Iraqi government, have not denied the possibility of “operations against Israel” and have expressed enthusiasm regarding open and armed conflict against it. However, they believe that Iran is currently waging a media war more than it is waging a war in the field.

The Iraqi official also said that the Iraqi resistance factions do not know what the response will be to an Israeli ground offensive in the Gaza Strip and that it is Iran that will decide and is in regular contact with Hizbullah and Hamas by means of the operations room.

The report elaborates that Iran has informed the Iraqi militias that it will decide whether there will be any direct involvement in the fighting against Israel, and that this depends on the degree to which the scope of the conflict is extended and on the “involvement of additional elements,” apparently a reference to American intervention.

Two days earlier, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that delegations of senior military officials from the Iraqi Shi'ite militias had recently arrived in Syria and Lebanon in order to gather information and coordinate with local militias ahead of a possible attack against Israel.[18]

Arab News Website: Iran Is Planning A Military Ground Operation Against Israel On The Syrian Front

On October 18, 2023, the Arabic Post news website reported that, in light of the Hamas-Israel war in the Gaza Strip, IRGC Qods Force Commander General Esmail Qaani had secretly visited Syria and Iraq in order to coordinate possible operations against Israel in the event of an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza.

According to the report, Iran does not want Hizbullah to lead the escalation, since it is concerned that this would lead all of Lebanon into the war and inflict heavy damage on Hizbullah, which is the central group in the resistance axis. Hence, it is planning a military attack against Israel from the border with Syria, against the will of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. To this end, Iran has established and runs a joint operations room for coordinating activities with its allies. The report also said that the militias loyal to Iran have deployed forces along the Syria-Israel border. It added that, despite the 2018 understanding between Russia and Israel that the presence of Iran-backed militias near the border with Israel is prohibited, Russia has authorized the deployment of these militia forces. However, it has not authorized the launching of military operations from Syria, and talks on the subject are still being held between Russia and Iran.

An Iranian military expert closely affiliated with the IRGC told the website that General Qaani visited Syria on October 9, two days after the Hamas invasion of southern Israel, and then returned to Iran to report to Supreme Leader Ali Khameni. He returned to Syria on October 15 for a two-day visit, during which he established the IRGC-led joint operations room, investigated the degree of preparedness among Iran’s allies in Syria, and personally oversaw the training of the Fatemiyoun Brigade and the Zeinabiyoun Brigade militias, which are currently at a state of high readiness.[19]

In addition, General Qaani met with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and notified him of Iran's intentions to open the Syrian front against Israel. According to the source, President Al-Assad expressed his reservations in light of the situation in Syria, but nonetheless could not refuse Iran's requests.

The website's sources said that “the Iranian plan to start the escalation against Israel will begin in the Golan with an initially limited ground operation,” preparations for which “began several hours after [General] Qaani left Damascus.” Iranian and Hizbullah forces have deployed near the Golan Heights, “only a few meters away from Israeli forces.” In addition, over the past several days Iran has transferred weapons and drones to Syria. According to the sources, “everything is ready and awaiting a decision.” They added: “We have weapons, drones, electronic warfare equipment, and fighters for attacking Israel.”

Iraqi Militias Will Attack American Targets In Iraq

Trabic Post website reported that on October 16, General Qaani visited with the leaders of the Iran-backed Iraqi Shi'ite armed factions and updated them regarding the resistance axis involvement in the Gaza Strip and how coordination between the different groups in the axis will take place. A senior member of the Iran-backed Sayyid Al-Shuhada Brigade militia has stated that, at the beginning of the war, Iran asked the Shi'ite militias in Iraq to stand by and to not carry out their threats to strike American targets in Iraq due to American support for Israel. However, during his latest visit, Qaani spoke about the serious possibility that all the groups in the resistance axis will take part in the fighting over the coming weeks, even if a final plan has not yet been formulated. The website's source said: “We have several possible plans. During his visit, Qaani updated us about their [the Iranian] plans, but said that there are secondary plans that will be discussed during his next visit to Iraq.”

A senior member of an Iraqi Shi'ite militia told the website that the Iraqi groups will play an important role if the war in Gaza escalates. He said: “We are prepared to deploy forces along the entire Iraq-Syria border. Our role in Iraq is to strike American targets on Iraqi soil. This is no less important than the participation of all the resistance groups in Syria and Lebanon. The resistance groups in Iraq have their own plan that has been discussed with Iran… We are in a state of high readiness, and we have military plans that will be coordinated at the right time with Hizbullah, Iran, and the resistance groups in Syria and Yemen.”

Coordination With The Houthis

An Iranian source close to the IRGC has said that, in discussions held among the resistance groups, the Houthis stated that they were ready to attack “anybody that supports Israel in the current war.” He said that senior Houthi officials are expected to travel to Iraq in coming weeks to discuss coordination in the event that the resistance axis becomes involved in the war.[20]

Hizbullah-Affiliated Daily: The Joint Operations Room Is Working In A Coordinated Fashion; Hizbullah Has Changed Its Methods Against Israel

The Hizbullah-affiliated Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily has also reported on the activities of the joint operations room of the resistance axis. According to the report, the operations room is working in a totally coordinated fashion, including an exchange of information and authorization of the next moves in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas. It says that Hizbullah is currently operating “differently than in the past;” it “does not suffice with limited operations, but is carrying out operations meant to prevent the enemy from mobilizing all its capabilities for fighting in the Gaza Strip.” It also says that the operations room has decided that it should currently focus on disabling the enemy’s intelligence capabilities along the Israel-Lebanon border and disabling [the enemy’s] armored vehicle operations, with the goal of forcing the enemy’s soldiers to hide in fortified rooms.

The report asserted that these operations will continue on a daily basis and will expand to all military and intelligence positions from Ras Naqoura to the Shebaa Farms. On October 18, 2023, the Al-Fajr Forces, which are the military wing of the Lebanese Muslim Brotherhood branch Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiyah, joined the operations,[21] and it is expected that additional forces will also join the fray.[22]

Reports In Arab Media On Forces Headed For Israeli Border

As stated, these reports in the Arab media line up with reports on Syrian opposition websites that state that Iran-backed militias in Syria have been sending reinforcements to Syria's border with Israel ahead of a possible conflict. According to these reports, this activity began approximately two weeks before the Hamas October 7 invasion of southern Israel.[23] On October 17, the Syrian opposition-affiliated Euphrates Post website reported that Iran was continuing to send operatives from its militias in eastern Syria to reinforce positions in southern Syria. The website said that these operatives were given various incentives, including a promise that they would receive an increased wage.[24] In addition, the opposition-affiliated Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on October 18 that over the two previous days, Iran-backed militias – and particularly Hizbullah and the IRGC – had sent more than 300 special forces fighters and other operatives to Quneitrah, Rif Dimashq, and the Syrian Golan Heights.[25]

The same day, the Syrian opposition website reported that, in recent days, more than 1,000 Shi'ite militiamen, from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, had entered Syria from Iraq and been transported in four groups to Homs. According to the report, some cells are headed for Lebanon, while the situation on the Israeli border is escalating. It also claimed that militias stationed in Homs, Latakia and Tartous had started to recruit local operatives, mostly Shi'ites, to their ranks.     

By contrast, the Syrian opposition website Orient News reported on October 17 that according to opposition operatives in Dar'a in southern Syria, the Iran-backed militias, Hizbullah, and the Palestinian factions affiliated with it have been decreasing their presence in their bases in Rif Dimashq, Quneitrah, and Dar'a. The website reported that this activity exposes Iran's lies that its militias intend to open another front against Israel in order to assist the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.[26] However, this activity may be an indication that the groups in question are actually reorganizing their forces in order to avoid the possibility of Israeli strikes and are redeploying them elsewhere in southern Syria.


[7], October 16, 2023.

[8], October 19, 2023.

[9], October 19, 2023.

[13], October 18, 2023

[14], October 18, 2023.

[15] It should be noted that, in early October 2023, the Iran-backed Iraqi militia Uli Al-Ba's Al-Shadid announced that it and 11 other local factions were joining forces in the struggle against the “occupiers.” It is unclear whether this alliance is part of “the Operations Room in Support of Al-Aqsa Flood,” or is a different body. See MEMRI JTTM report:

Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Announces Uniting Of Forces Among 11 Local Factions In Struggle Against ‘Occupiers,’ Vows To Perpetrate ‘High-Quality Operation To Avenge Martyrs Who Fell Defending Jerusalem’, October 17, 2023.

[16], October 18, 2023

[17], October 18, 2023

[19] In the framework of Iran's efforts to assist its ally Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, in the civil war that broke out in 2011, Iran established several Shi’ite militias, among them the Fatemiyoun Brigade, comprised of Afghan Shi’ites and Pakistani Zeinabiyoun Brigade.

[20], 18.10.2023.

[21] On October 18, this group took responsibility for an attack against Israel., October 18, 2023.

[22] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), October 19, 2023.

[24], October 17, 2023..

[25], October 18, 2023.

[26], October 17, 2023.

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