Iran warns Israel of escalation if it fails to end aggression against Palestinians

Tehran warns of changes in dynamics in the Middle East as a result of the conflict

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian at the Iranian embassy in Beirut on October 13. AFP
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Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian met Qatar's Emir Tamim on Saturday as Tehran warned Israel of escalation if it failed to end "aggression" against Palestinians.

Qatar is one of best-connected Arab countries with Hamas, the Iranian-backed militant group that launched a surprise attack on Israeli targets eight days ago and took dozens of mostly non-combatants as hostages, including US nationals.

The attack has drawn massive Israeli retaliation, raising the spectre of a multipronged conflict involving other groups aligned with Iran in Lebanon and Syria.

Mr Amirabdollahian said other parties in the region were ready to act if Israel did not halt action against Palestinians, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Sunday.

"If the Zionist aggressions do not stop, the hands of all parties in the region are on the trigger," Hossein Amirabdollahian was quoted as saying.

The semi-official Iranian Mehr news reported the meeting between Sheikh Tamim and Mr Amirabdollahian.

It said that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also called Sheikh Tamim on Saturday and discussed “the Palestinian cause and bilateral relations”.

At the same time, Iran’s mission to the UN said “far reaching consequences” could befall the Middle East if the war did not stop.

“If the Israeli apartheid’s war crimes and genocide are not halted immediately, the situation could spiral out of control,” the mission said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

It said this would have “far-reaching consequences – the responsibility of which lies with the UN, the Security Council and the states steering the council towards a dead end”.

The warning contrasts with the message delivered by US Secretary of Antony Blinken, who is on a Middle East tour, to Emir Tamim and other Arab leaders.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Mr Blinken has been talking with allies in the Middle East “to prevent the conflict from widening”.

Regional tour

Mr Amirabdollahian also met Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar. Mr Haniyeh is seen among the closest Hamas leaders to Iran, having attended the 2020 funeral of Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian officer assassinated by the US.

Qatar was the fourth stop of a regional tour by Mr Amirabdollahian that took him to Baghdad, Beirut and Damascus, Arab capitals where Iranian influence had expanded significantly over the last decade.

In Beirut on Thursday, he met Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah, one of the most powerful guerrilla groups in the Middle East and a crucial ally of Iran.

On Friday, he met Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in Damascus, shortly after an Israeli strike on the Damascus and Aleppo airports stopped flights to and from the two facilities.

Syria is a crucial supply line from Iran to Hezbollah. Weapons convoys and bases and other facilities linked to Hezbollah and other militias supported by Tehran have been frequent targets for Israeli air strikes on Syria in recent years.

Syrian political commentator Ayman Abdelnour said the latest strikes on the airports were a message to the Iranian leadership that Israel is “not that busy with Gaza”.

“Israel was telling Iran that it is business as usual,” Mr Abdelnour said. “It will not allow Iran to take advantage of what is happening in Gaza.”

Updated: October 16, 2023, 12:34 PM