Today's D Brief: Israel’s ‘new phase’ of war; Iraq inches toward US ejection; B-1 crash; Russia’s N. Korean missiles; And a bit more.

‘New phase’ of war outlined by Israel defense chief. Full-scale combat operations in the northern part of Gaza will give way to raids, demolishing tunnels, air and ground strikes, and special forces operations, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a Thursday statement. But in the south—where most of the enclave’s 2.3 million people are now, many crowded into tents and makeshift shelters—“It will continue for as long as is deemed necessary” to kill Hamas leaders and rescue Israeli hostages. 

Gallant also said a post-war Gaza would be led by Palestinian governmental bodies—not Hamas, but based on civil committees. CNBC reports: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far resisted laying out a clear vision for the future of Gaza but has ruled out a role for the Palestinian Authority, the body that was set up under the 30-year-old Oslo Accords and exercises limited governance in the occupied West Bank.” More, here.

U.S., EU diplomats work to stop a wider war. Reuters: “U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Europe's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, embarked on a new diplomatic effort on Friday to stop the spillover of the conflict in Gaza to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Lebanon and Red Sea shipping lanes.”

ICYMI: In the Red Sea, the Houthis tried to deploy a bomb-laden drone boat. It exploded, but too far away from foreign naval or commercial ships to cause any damage, 5th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Brad Cooper said. (Via VOA’s Carla Babb)

BTW: Red Sea protection effort faces early hurdles, writes Defense One sister pub Forecast International. “Though the Pentagon claimed a united effort made up of 20 nations, commitment from allies has seemed trepidatious, with almost half preferring to remain unnamed,” writes Tom Freebairn. Read on, here.

New: Iraq may eject U.S.-led coalition after strike. “The Iraqi government is forming a committee to prepare the closing down of the U.S.-led international coalition's mission in the country, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani's office said on Friday,” Reuters reports. (You may recall Iraq’s parliament voted to expel U.S. forces in early 2020, after the U.S. assassinated Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad. That resolution, however, was nonbinding and allowed Iraqi lawmakers to vent their frustration without losing U.S. support.) 

Context: “Sudani's statement came a day after a U.S. strike killed a militia leader in Baghdad, prompting anger among Iran-aligned groups which demanded the government end the presence of the coalition in Iraq.” Read more at Reuters, here.

The strike targeted Mushtaq Jawad Kazim al-Jawari, a leader of Harakat-al-Nujaba, Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on Thursday.

Al-Jawari was a “mid-level commander,” tweeted Long War Journal editor Bill Roggio. “This strike clearly was a message to militias: we can go after your top leaders.” Roggio also lists some higher-ups who might be getting nervous.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1972, President Richard Nixon directed NASA to build the Space Transportation System, which we have come to know as the Space Shuttle program.

B-1 bomber crashes in South Dakota. All four aircrew ejected safely as the plane crashed during an attempt to land at Ellsworth Air Force Base around 5:50 p.m. local time, base officials said. The crew had been on a training mission. (ABC News)

The crash leaves 44 of the swing-wing jets in service, according to a 2021 article by The Drive. An even 100 were delivered during the 1980s. At least 10 were lost in crashes between 1984 to 2001.

The U.S. says Russia launched North Korean missiles at Ukraine last week. “On the 30th of December 2023, Russian forces launched at least one of these North Korean ballistic missiles into Ukraine,” John Kirby of the National Security Council told reporters Thursday. The missile “appears to have landed in an open field in the Zaporizhzhia region,” he said. The missiles can travel about 550 miles. 

Russia launched more North Korean missiles on Tuesday “as part of its overnight aerial attack,” said Kirby. That attack was among the largest of the war so far, and also featured 10 of Russia’s Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched ballistic missiles. “We’re still assessing the impacts of these additional [North Korean] missiles,” Kirby said Thursday. 

The White House promised additional sanctions on officials involved in the missile transfer. Kirby also said the U.S. would raise the issue at the United Nations since, if confirmed, the action “directly violates multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Kirby said. 

“But here’s the bottom line,” said Kirby. “The most effective response to Russia’s horrific violence against the Ukrainian people is to continue to provide Ukraine with vital air defense capabilities and other types of military equipment. To do that, we need Congress to approve our supplemental funding request for Ukraine without delay.”

New in Russia: Foreigners who fight for Moscow inside Ukraine can now obtain Russian citizenship, Reuters reported Thursday. To be eligible, applicants must have signed up to fight against Ukraine for at least a year. Read more, here

What Ukraine’s troops need if they want to take back more land in 2024 than they did in 2023: They’re going to need to start training at a larger scale, incorporating numerous different elements in a coordinated effort. That’s according to European military analyst Jack Watling of the UK’s Royal United Services Institute. Watling has visited Ukraine’s front lines several times, and has most recently explained his assessment in the pages of Foreign Affairs. Watling and/or the editors titled his piece, “The War in Ukraine is Not a Stalemate,” though he argues the war could become one if Ukraine does not adapt its training efforts. 

An excerpt: “During the 2023 offensive, Ukrainian operations were largely fought by pairs of companies under the close management of an understaffed brigade command post. The result was that while Ukrainian soldiers often succeeded in taking enemy positions, they were rarely able to exploit the breaches they made or to quickly reinforce their gains. Instead, they had to stop and plan, giving Russian forces time to reset. If the Ukrainian military cannot expand the scale at which it operates, this experience risks being repeated. Delivering the proper training, however, will need time.” Read on, here.

New: Germany just announced more weapons it has delivered to Ukraine, including one SKYNEX air defense system, more IRIS-T SLM missiles, two TRML-4D air surveillance radars, and a bridge-laying tank. 

“The package also includes more Marders, artillery ammunition, drone detection systems, and a variety of other items,” Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy said on social media Thursday. “The advanced Skynex system and additional IRIS-T SLM missiles will strengthen our sky shield and save more lives,” he said, and added, “I am grateful to Germany for once again demonstrating its leadership in this area.” 

Related reading: A Hard-Won Victory That Ukraine Stands to Lose,” published Thursday in The Atlantic.

And lastly this week: South Korea’s military announced a new milestone after it deployed its first female submariners for duty on Friday—following through on a policy change announced in 2022. 

The primary obstacle for RoK’s female sailors on subs: Insufficient bathroom facilities, South Korea’s Yonhap reports. But the 3000-ton ROKS Dosan Ahn Changho submarine has enough room, as does its sister sub, Ahn Mu, of the same class. Five of the females will serve aboard the Dosan Ahn Changho, and the other four will serve on the Ahn Mu. Read more, here

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