Wed, 29 Nov 2023

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reportedly made it clear that Tehran won?t get directly involved in the conflict in Gaza

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has reportedly told Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh that Tehran won't get directly involved in the militant group's war with Israel, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing senior Iranian and Hamas officials with direct knowledge of the talks.

The Iranian leader was surprised by the October 7 attacks by Hamas that triggered the ongoing conflict, the agency added.

Khamenei and Haniyeh reportedly discussed the war during a face-to-face meeting earlier this month in Tehran. Iran, which wasn't forewarned of the Hamas raids that killed an estimated 1,200 Israelis, would only enter the conflict if it was attacked by Israel or the US, according to the report.

Barring such an attack, Iran's involvement in the conflict will be limited to political and moral support, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Khamenei directed Haniyeh to silence the Hamas leaders who have called for Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, to fully join the battle against Israel.

Mohanad Hage Ali, an expert on Hezbollah at the Carnegie Middle East Center think tank in Beirut, said the October 7 attacks forced allies of Hamas to make tough choices on confronting foes with superior firepower. "When you wake up the bear with such an attack, it's quite difficult for your allies to stand in the same position as you," he told Reuters.

More than 11,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed since the war began, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to "demolish Hamas." He has also accused Iran of being complicit in the October 7 attacks. "In fighting Hamas and the Iranian axis of terror, Israel is fighting the enemies of civilization itself," Netanyahu told reporters late last month.

US forces have launched a series of airstrikes against militant groups linked to Iran after blaming them for a series of rocket and drone attacks against American military bases in Iraq and Syria. However, Hezbollah and other Hamas allies have stopped short of large-scale operations that might escalate the crisis.

Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif called on the group's 'Axis of Resistance' allies to join the fight after the October 7 attacks. Reuters said Hezbollah and Iran have "calibrated" their responses to "demonstrate solidarity for Hamas in Gaza and stretch Israeli forces without becoming engaged in a direct confrontation with Israel that could draw in the US." One senior official told the outlet that Hamas wanted Hezbollah to strike deeper into Israel with its rocket attacks, but Hezbollah believed such tactics "would lead Israel to lay waste to Lebanon without halting its attack on Gaza."


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