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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Iran Cautions Israel Against Launching Ground Invasion into Gaza

As Israel prepares for a possible ground invasion of Gaza, Iran has issued a stark warning, calling for an immediate end to aggressions against Palestinians. The Iranian foreign minister also singled out the United States for its unwavering backing of Israel since the devastating Hamas attack that left over 1,400 Israelis dead.

“If the Zionist aggressions do not stop, the hands of all parties in the region are on the trigger,” Hossein Amirabdollahian said, as quoted by news agency Reuters. He was addressing a conference in Beirut, Lebanon, as part of a tour that also took him to Baghdad and Damascus. Iran heads the so-called axis of resistance, which includes powerful militant groups in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq.

The escalating violence between Israel and Hamas has pushed the Middle East to the edge of what many fear will be a full-scale war. Yet the conflict has been largely ignored in the United States, with only occasional shocking attacks and sustained battles breaking through to headlines before sinking back into obscurity. That’s a problem because if the conflict expands into a full-scale regional war, it will likely draw in Iran-backed Hezbollah forces and possibly other militant groups that could be used as proxies to hurt Israel. This scenario would surely arouse Washington’s fury.

Iran has long provided arms, training, and funding to Hezbollah, the militant group that controls Gaza. It has also hosted its political leadership in Tehran. But in a phone call with Hezbollah President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday, Iran’s top diplomat made clear that the nation will not cross its red lines and said that if Israel carries out its threat of a ground invasion of Gaza, it will provoke a response, according to sources familiar with the conversation. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmenparast called Haaretz and other media outlets to make the same point. He did not mention the Gaza threat, though he did say that Iran is “ready to help with the release of the hostages in Israel.”

Mehmenparast added that Iran had food, water, fuel, and medical and other supplies stockpiled in Egypt, Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel that could be deployed to Gaza if needed. He called on the United Nations to help with delivery, a claim that U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon backed on Sunday.

A senior Western intelligence official who requested anonymity told CNN that despite the Wall Street Journal’s explosive report accusing Iran of helping Hezbollah plan the attack, there is no evidence of direct Iranian involvement in the tactical planning and execution of the strike. That official and other current and former national security officials consulted by CNN all cautioned that simply because Iran has in the past supported Hezbollah does not mean it is now supporting the group’s actions against Israel. That could change if Hezbollah escalates the conflict by opening a second front in southern Lebanon.

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