Iranian foreign minister threatens ‘inevitable’ expansion of war against Israel

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Qatari counterpart said to discuss ways for ending ‘the brutal attacks of the Israeli regime against civilians’

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaks during a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bouhabib, in Beirut, Lebanon, October 13, 2023. (Hussein Malla/AP)
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaks during a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bouhabib, in Beirut, Lebanon, October 13, 2023. (Hussein Malla/AP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has reportedly told his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, that the expansion of the Israel-Hamas war is “inevitable.”

“Due to the expansion of the intensity of the war against Gaza’s civilian residents, expansion of the scope of the war has become inevitable,” Iran’s Press TV quoted Amir-Abdollahian as saying in a phone call Thursday.

Iranian reports on the call stated that the two diplomats strongly condemned “the attacks of the Zionist regime against civilians,” and discussed ways through which they could “end the brutal attacks of the Israeli regime.”

Iran and its terror proxies in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq have been threatening a regional conflict since the start of the war, sparked by Hamas’s brutal October 7 assault on southern Israel that killed some 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and saw some 240 people taken hostage in Gaza.

Following Hamas’s onslaught, Israel vowed to eliminate the terror group from the Gaza Strip, which it has ruled since 2007, and launched an operation from the air and the sea, and on the ground.

An estimated 9,500 rockets have been fired at Israel since October 7, 3,000 of them during the first day of the war alone. While the majority have been fired from inside Gaza, the Iran-backed Hezbollah has been conducting and overseeing daily assaults on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

On Friday, November 3, the terror group’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, made his first speech since the outbreak of war, and expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and their “martyrs.”

While he predicted that Israel would fail, Nasrallah did not announce any explicit plans to broaden his Lebanese terror group’s involvement in the war, saying that “Some would like Hezbollah to engage in an all-out war, but I can tell you: What is happening now along the Israeli-Lebanese border is significant, and it is not the end.”

Supporters of Iranian-backed Hezbollah raise their fists and cheer as leader Hassan Nasrallah gives a speech via a video link during a rally in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023 (AP/Hussein Malla)

Elsewhere on Israel’s borders, a drone is believed to have been launched from southern Syria on Thursday, crossing into Israel via Jordan before hitting a school in Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat. In response, the IDF confirmed it had carried out airstrikes inside Syria.

Israel has also faced attempted missile strikes from the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, although all of the attempts were either intercepted or missed their targets. The latest incident on Thursday saw a rocket fired from Yemen downed by Israel’s Arrow 3 missile defense system.

Abdollahian’s warning is not the first to be uttered by Iran in recent weeks. On October 29, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza “may force everyone” to act.

“The crimes of the Zionist regime have crossed the red lines, and this may force everyone to take action,” Raisi wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Washington asks us to not do anything, but they keep giving widespread support to Israel.”

At the same time as Israel faces threats from Iranian-backed groups, US troops stationed across the Middle East have also come under fire. Since the start of the war last month, a series of rocket and drone attacks have targeted military bases hosting US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria.

According to the Pentagon, US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria had been targeted by drone or rocket attacks 38 times since October 17, injuring 45 US personnel.

The US has sent two aircraft carrier strike groups and a nuclear-powered submarine to the region in a bid to deter Tehran and Hezbollah.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the deployment of the USS Ford and its associated warships to the Eastern Mediterranean on October 9, before ordering the deployment of the USS Eisenhower on October 15.

USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier refuels from the underway replenishment oiler USNS Laramie in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, October 11, 2023. (US Navy photo via AP)

Along with the two aircraft carrier strike groups, the US Central Command announced on November 6 that a nuclear-powered Ohio-class submarine, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, had arrived in the region.

Furthermore, the US has reportedly warned both Hezbollah and Iran that it is ready to act militarily against them if they escalate the conflict with Israel. The message has been conveyed to the terror group and the Islamic Republic through their partners in the region, Turkey among them, according to a New York Times report.

Qatar, to which Abdollahian issued his warning, has close ties to Hamas and has been working with the US to try and broker a ceasefire and hostage release deal with Israel.

In recent days, Qatar was reported to have been negotiating the potential release of 10-15 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for a humanitarian pause in fighting.

A source close to Hamas corroborated the report on Wednesday evening, claiming that talks are underway for the release of a dozen hostages it is holding, including six Americans, in return for a three-day ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

Qatar has in recent years paid the salaries of civil servants in the Gaza Strip, provided humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza and maintained open channels of communication with Hamas.

Qatar has also hosted Hamas’s political office in its capital of Doha for over a decade. Among officials based there are former Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s current chief.

At the same time, the wealthy Gulf emirate has long enjoyed good relations with the US and hosts the largest US military base in the Middle East.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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