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The Early Phoenix

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US Bases Attacked; Houthis Persist in Aggression; Israel Strikes Hezbollah Targets

TOP HEADLINES:

  • Persistent Strikes on U.S. Bases in Syria 
  • Houthi Strikes Prompt CENTCOM Response
  • Hezbollah’s Tunnels Exposed
  • Southern Lebanon Under Fire
  • Iran’s Latest Missile Launch: Recycling Old Systems

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★ LEBANON

  1. Southern Lebanon Under Fire: Israel Responds to Hezbollah Aggression.

Israel conducted a series of airstrikes targeting multiple locations across southern Lebanon, including Yaroun, Beit Lif, Ramia, Aytroun, Ghaziyeh, Zahrani, and the outskirts of several other border towns such as Mays al-Jabal and Hula. These attacks were in response to Hezbollah’s activities, including the seizure of an Israeli drone and rocket strikes on Israeli military sites. Recent Israeli airstrikes have resulted in civilian casualties and significant damage, with Hezbollah retaliating by targeting Israeli military barracks and infrastructure. 

  1. Exposing Hezbollah’s Tunnels: A Greater Threat Than Hamas’s Gaza Network.

Over the past three decades, Hezbollah has developed an extensive tunnel network across Lebanon, utilizing North Korean technology. This network, detailed in a report by the French newspaper “Liberation,” features hundreds of kilometers of tunnels equipped with advanced surveillance technologies, including motion detectors and optical fibers. These tunnels, more complex and potentially more dangerous than those built by Hamas in Gaza, are intended as a defensive measure against potential Israeli invasions. Israel’s Operation “Northern Shield” in 2018 highlighted the strategic threat posed by these tunnels, with efforts to detect and destroy them to prevent the risk of tremors and landslides from explosions. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has noted that these tunnels violate Resolution 1701 by crossing into Israeli territory, amid recent escalations in bombings between Israel and Hezbollah. UNIFIL has called for an immediate ceasefire to prevent further casualties and displacement in the region.

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★ SYRIA

  1. UAE Transfers Aircraft to the Assad Regime, Breaching Sanctions.

Less than a week after the U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Normalization Act, now awaiting Senate approval, the United Arab Emirates facilitated the transfer of a French-made Airbus A320 to the Syrian airline Cham Wings. This move, bypassing international sanctions through a complex scheme involving a phantom airline named “Queens Air,” highlights a significant violation of international norms. The aircraft, nearly 19 years old, was rerouted through Kyrgyzstan and Belarus before arriving in Damascus on February 7. Initially owned by various countries, its ownership was transferred to Sky One in Sharjah, then to the inactive Queens Air, and finally to Cham Wings on February 13. Despite facing new EU sanctions for supporting the Assad regime through the transport of mercenaries and drugs, Cham Wings managed to participate in the Fitor 2024 tourism exhibition in Spain, further defying international sanctions.

  1. Persistent Strikes on U.S. Bases in Syria by Iranian-Backed Militias. 

Iranian-backed militias continue their strikes on U.S. bases in Syria. Loud explosions were heard on Monday evening in the Conico Gas field where U.S. forces are stationed. Local sources say the site was struck with four missiles without any information about possible casualties. 

Iraqi and Iranian sources told Reuters in recent days that IRGC Quds Force commander Ismail Qani visited Baghdad in late January and told Iraqi militia commanders to halt attacks against American forces, after which most, but not all, IRGC proxy militants supposedly halted their attacks. According to these sources, the militia attacks that have taken place after Qani’s visit have been carried out by Harakat Nujaba, an Iraqi militia that supposedly did not agree to Qani’s directive to stop attacks.  

This report has gone viral in the regional media, but has also been met with skepticism among some experts who assess it as potential propaganda serving both Iran and the Biden administration. For example, in one Syria TV report evaluating the claim regarding the cessation of Iranian strikes on U.S. bases in Syria, expert analyst Diyaa Qadour questioned the portrayal of Qani and the IRGC seeking to halt attacks but not having complete control of Iraqi militia actions. Qadour noted that the notion that any Iran-supported faction or militia in the region could diverge significantly from Tehran’s directives is highly unlikely. 

Facts on the ground, meanwhile, show that Tehran’s strategic confrontational stance has not changed, even after the American retaliatory strikes on February 4th targeted 28 militia sites along a 130-kilometer corridor stretching from Deir ez-Zor to the Iraqi border. After this heavy U.S. retaliation, the IRGC-backed militia groups have persisted in their attacks and maneuvers against American bases. Less than 24 hours after the American strikes, Iranian militias  continued to move their military vehicles from Ayyash warehouses to a Syrian Vanguard camp in Deir ez-Zor unhindered, after publicly clearing rubble from the buildings targeted to demonstrate they were not killed. The Iranian militias did, however, move some of their commanders to alternate bases in Albu Kamal and Palmyra. They also moved their activities at Naser base from an industrial area to the residential Port Said Street in Deir ez-Zor, prompting residents to fear the militias planned to use local civilians as human shields.  

By February 8, Iranian-backed militia operations against American targets were back in full swing. On that day, a drone attack by Iranian-backed groups targeted the vicinity of the Al-Omar oil field, where American forces are stationed, killing five SDF commandos. Additional attacks on the Al-Omar base followed within hours, and a subsequent drone strike hit the Green Village, the largest U.S. base in Syria, leading to explosions and damage to American soldiers’ living quarters.

On February 9, Iranian-backed groups conducted two successive attacks on the American base at the Conoco Gas Plant in eastern Syria, initially with a drone and then with a missile salvo.

The heightened confrontation continued on February 10 when U.S. bases in Syria intercepted 4-6 armed drones, followed by multiple attacks on the Al-Omar field base with drones and as many as 20 missiles

On February 12, six busloads of Iranian fighters entered Syria from Iraq, heading towards Al-Bukamal, located 90 km south of the Omar field. Rathern than target this convoy of Iranian forces near Al-Bukamal, American drones struck an empty farm warehouse in Mayadeen belonging to a minor Iranian-affiliated group called the Imam Al-Sadiq located 40 km east of their al-Omar base.  

On February 13, Iranian-backed militias targeted the Al Omar base with yet another salvo of missiles, some of which landed in the Green Village where most U.S. soldiers in the area are housed. U.S. forces reportedly responded with a strike on the Ain Ali Shrine in an evacuated village 36 kilometers southeast of the Omar base.  

Undeterred by the strikes against empty facilities, Iranian militias were spotted smuggling four military convoys from Iraq to Der Ezzour and heading toward Homs on February 16.  

On February 18, Several explosions were heard after midnight on Saturday-Sunday, resulting from military training with weapons and live ammunition conducted by militias near Al-Hamdan Airport in the southern desert of Al Bukamal.

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★ IRAN

  1. Iran’s Latest Missile Launch: Recycling Old Systems.

Iran recently garnered media attention by announcing two supposedly new missile systems, the Arman and Azarakhsh. However, these systems were previously introduced in 2018, 2021, and 2023. The Tactical Sayyad missile, renamed Arman, remains virtually unchanged. Iran’s Defense Minister, Brigadier General Muhammad Reza Ashtian, showcased these old missiles as new, citing the name change in honor of Arman Ali Wardi, a Basij militia member allegedly killed in a 2022 protest. This reuse of existing systems with minimal upgrades not only highlights Iran’s limited technological progress but also underscores the failure of its messaging strategy aimed at deterrence.

  1. Impact of Israeli Strikes on Iran’s Gas Production Exposed. 

Energy experts reveal that Israeli strikes have cut 15% of Iran’s daily natural gas output, challenging Tehran’s claims of unaffected services and quick repair times. The Israeli Telegram channel Abu AliExpress pinpointed the explosion’s impact, halting gas flow from Bandar Abbas port and southern fields to major cities like Isfahan, Qom, and Tehran.

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★ ISRAEL & PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 

  1. Israeli Airstrikes Target Hamas in Gaza.

Israeli forces conducted airstrikes and artillery shelling across the Gaza Strip, targeting areas such as Rafah, Khan Yunis, and the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City. The operations aimed at Hamas strongholds have led to the death of dozens of Palestinian militants and injured several Israeli soldiers. Amidst the conflict, over a million people have been displaced, moving towards Rafah in search of safety.

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★ YEMEN

  1. Houthi Strikes Prompt CENTCOM Response.

CENTCOM’s continued efforts to counter Houthi threats began on February 15, with a missile lightly damaging the MV Lycavitos, a UK-owned and Barbados-flagged bulk carrier, in the Gulf of Aden. Following this, CENTCOM conducted self-defense strikes on February 17 against Houthi missile and drone threats in Yemen, including the first reported use of a UUV by the Houthis, aiming to safeguard maritime navigation. The next day, February 18, saw a significant escalation when the Houthis struck the UK-owned MV Rubymar with a missile, causing damage and eliciting a distress call, with coalition forces responding to ensure the crew’s safety. Additionally, within 24 hours of this attack, the Houthis launched another ballistic missile from Ibb towards the Red Sea, further demonstrating the intensification of their maritime threats. 

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📌 Incase you missed it,

📰 Iran’s Imminent Game: Steering Assad Toward an Inevitable Clash with Israel

📰 The Early Phoenix February 15&16, 2024

🌍 The Region – Feb 12, 2024

🔗 Follow the latest news from the American Center for Levant Studies via Google News

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