Map: How the Israel-Hamas conflict has spread beyond the Mideast

Four months into the war, fighting has spread from Gaza to Pakistan.

A drone strike in Beirut on Jan. 2 killed Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri and six others.

A drone strike in Beirut on Jan. 2 killed Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri and six others.

A drone strike in Beirut on Jan. 2 killed Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri and six others.

Hamas' terrorist attack on Israel in October and Israel's retaliatory assault on the Gaza Strip have set off a chain reaction.

Fears are growing that the violence could spiral into a full-blown regional war and maybe even lead to a direct confrontation between Iran and the United States. An attack in late January that killed three U.S. soldiers and wounded dozens more at a base in Jordan, prompting retaliatory strikes from the U.S., only escalated those concerns.

While many experts and Western officials believe there is little desire in Tehran or Washington for a direct war, the scope of potential miscalculation is huge. Furthermore, militias supported by Iran operate with some autonomy, adding a layer of uncertainty and volatility.

Terror attack, then war

Hours after Palestinian militants launched the worst terrorist attack in Israel’s history on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, kidnapping 240 and firing a barrage of rockets, the Israeli air force began bombing the Gaza Strip, kicking off a military campaign that has killed more than 28,000 people, according to Palestinian health officials.

Later that month, Israel launched a ground offensive into northern Gaza, with tanks and troops piercing the enclave's perimeter fence to fight in its densely crowded streets, many of which have been turned to rubble. Israel’s military warned Palestinians to evacuate and have since turned its attention to the south, where many of those people fled.

Hamas, meanwhile, has been firing rockets into Israel, an exchange that reignites every few years but never before at this scale. In the occupied West Bank, locals and human rights groups report a rise in violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers. Critics say the Israeli government has enabled and even encouraged such attacks, while Israel says most deaths in the West Bank are not settler-related but instead can be attributed to security forces carrying out counterterrorism raids against militants.

Conflict expands into Lebanon and Syria

The day after Hamas’ surprise attack, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah — which, like Hamas, is backed by Shiite-run Iran — fired artillery and rockets into Israel. Israel responded, beginning a cross-border exchange that has persisted every day since then, provoking worries of a rerun of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war.

The next week, on Oct. 12, Israel launched strikes against several targets in Syria, including airports in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo, according to Syrian officials. These strikes against Tehran-linked groups have intensified since, with Iran blaming Israel for killing members of its powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is in Syria supporting President Bashar al-Assad.

Flare up in Iraq

On Oct. 18, 11 days after the Hamas attack, Iran-linked militants launched missiles on U.S. forces in Iraq, the first of more than 160 strikes since then on American positions in that country, Syria and Jordan, the Pentagon says. Most of these missiles have been intercepted but some have evaded air defenses, striking bases and killing and wounding personnel. There are around 3,000 U.S. troops in Jordan, 2,500 in Iraq and 900 in northeast Syria, according to the Defense Department.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Shia militants, has taken responsibility for many of the strikes against U.S. forces, saying it will continue until Israel stops bombing Gaza. Most have targeted the Al Asad Airbase in Iraq, which is used by the U.S. military, and the American garrison at al-Tanf, in southern Syria, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders.

Red Sea conflict heats up

A day later, on Oct. 19, an American warship in the Red Sea, the USS Carney, shot down a missile launched toward Israel by Yemen's Houthi rebels, also backed by Tehran. In November, the group hijacked Galaxy Leader, a cargo ship part-owned by an Israeli businessman, and started launching dozens of missile and drone attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea. The Houthis say they are only targeting Israel-linked ships, despite evidence to the contrary, in solidarity with the Palestinians and to protest the IDF's war on Gaza.

The drones and missiles fired by the Houthis are nearly identical to Iranian drones and missiles, and the U.S. has accused Tehran of arming and training the group. This weaponry is being trained on the Red Sea, and specifically the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, or “the Gate of Grief,” a chokehold for global trade, with almost 9% of all seaborne-traded oil and refined products passing through its waters. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Houthi attacks had “disrupted or diverted more than 20% of global shipping.”

U.S. begins airstrikes

The U.S. and its allies have struck back. On Oct. 27, American F-16s bombed what the U.S. said were weapons storage facilities for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard near Abu Kamal, in Syria. In late November, U.S. forces struck Iran-backed militants based in Iraq, to the west and south of Baghdad. It had previously refrained from striking Iraq because of the country's delicate political situation: at once hosting American troops but also politically dependent on powerful Iran-backed militias.

In response to the Houthis, the American and British militaries fired on Jan. 12 dozens of missiles at around 30 of the militants' positions in Yemen. The U.S. missiles and jets were launched from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. And while the Pentagon did not give details of the targets, the British military said among them was a site in Bani, in the northwest of the country, which it said was used to launch reconnaissance and attack drones. It also said it had hit an airfield at Abbs used to launch both cruise missiles and drones over the Red Sea.

Iranian attacks expand the conflict map

Although Iran may not be seeking a direct war with the United States and its allies, it may believe it can deter a U.S. attack on Iranian soil, focus the world's attention on the plight of the Palestinians and pile pressure on Israel and America through its network of proxies. Iran has hurled regular verbal warnings at Israel and the U.S., with Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian saying in November that the regional spread of Israel’s war in Gaza was “inevitable.”

On Jan. 15, Iran launched strikes against what it said was an Israeli spy base near the city of Irbil in northern Iraq. It then fired missiles and drone attacks into Pakistan's Balochistan province on Jan. 16, targeting what it says is the “Iranian terrorist group” Jaish al-Adl.

Pakistan — a nuclear power with an estimated 165 warheads — responded two days later by striking “terrorist hideouts” in Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province.

Attacks on U.S. troops turn deadly

After months of attacks by Iran-backed militants injured American troops across the Middle East, three U.S. service members were killed and more than 30 were injured when a drone packed with explosives hit their base in northeast Jordan on Jan. 28.

As with other attacks, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq took responsibility. President Joe Biden called it the work of “radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq” and vowed “we will respond.”

U.S. responds with force

Retaliation came days later, when the U.S. carried out its biggest actions of the conflict, conducting airstrikes on more than 80 militant targets on both sides of the Iraq/Syria border on Feb. 2. And on Feb. 8, a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed Abu Baqir al-Saadi, who U.S. Central Command described as a militant commander who was directly responsible for planning and participating in the drone attack in Jordan.

In response to the Houthi drone attacks on commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea, the U.S. and the United Kingdom have conducted multiple strikes against the Houthi militant group in February, including an attack on more than 30 targets in the Houthi-controlled areas on Feb. 3.


This spread of violence has governments and independent analysts worried about the risk of a wider regional war. Iran has warned that an increased American military response would itself bring further retaliation from Tehran. And many regional observers remain deeply concerned about the simmering conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, which is armed with an estimated 130,000 rockets and missiles.

Blinken has described it as an “incredibly volatile time in the Middle East,” suggesting at a news conference last month that the world had “not seen a situation as dangerous as the one we’re facing now across the region since at least 1973” — referring to that year’s Arab-Israeli war, or Yom Kippur War — “and arguably even before that.”

Sources: Attack data from NBC News reports, Israeli and Palestinian officials. Red Sea drone attacks reports from Institute for the Study of War and AEI's Critical Threats Project. Data as of Feb. 8; Houthi-controlled areas from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Geographic data from Natural Earth.