By Jack Phillips
Iran warned Israel that it would respond to an anticipated Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip to remove Hamas.
“If the Zionist regime’s crimes against the Palestinian people and citizens continue, no one can guarantee that the situation in the region will remain the same,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in a statement on Oct. 14, according to Iranian state media. It came as Mr. Amir-Abdollahian met with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Doha, Qatar, over the weekend.
Mr. Amir-Abdollahian also told The Associated Press that Israel’s operations could cause fighting to expand across the Middle East, triggering a “huge earthquake.” He didn’t elaborate.
“I know about the scenarios that Hezbollah has put in place,” he stated, referring to the Shia Lebanese political party and State Department-designated terrorist group backed by Iran. “Any step the resistance [Hezbollah] will take will cause a huge earthquake in the Zionist entity.”
Amir-Abdollahian continued to say, “I want to warn the war criminals and those who support this entity before it’s too late to stop the crimes against civilians in Gaza because it might be too late in a few hours.”
Reports citing a United Nations official also indicated that Iran’s foreign minister said that Iran wouldn’t intervene in the conflict—for now. An Axios report, citing unnamed sources, said that Tehran warned the Israeli government via the U.N. that it would respond if the ground offensive commenced.
When asked about the Axios report, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Reuters: “All of the meetings have been to discuss diplomatic efforts to release hostages, secure humanitarian access, and prevent a spillover of the conflict to the wider region. This includes his recent meetings in Lebanon.”
The Iranian mission to the U.N. also sent out a warning via X, formerly known as Twitter, over the weekend. “If the Israeli apartheid’s war crimes & genocide are not halted immediately, the situation could spiral out of control & ricochet far-reaching consequences—the responsibility of which lies with the U.N., the Security Council & the states steering the Council toward a dead end,” the message read.
Iran hasn’t publicly commented on the Axios report. Israeli officials also have not commented on the claims.
It comes as Israel was preparing on Oct. 14 to start a ground assault against Iran-backed Hamas in the Gaza Strip after telling Palestinians living in the densely populated territory to flee south toward a closed border with Egypt. Israel has vowed to annihilate Hamas in retaliation for an attack by the Palestinian terrorist group a week ago.
Hamas stormed Israeli towns, killing 1,400 people and seizing scores of hostages. Analysts say it was the worst attack on civilians in Israel’s history.
Israeli jets and artillery have already subjected Gaza to the most intense bombardment it has ever seen and put the enclave, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, under siege. Gaza authorities said 2,600 people have been killed.
The United States has been working to keep Iran out of the conflict, and broader international diplomacy has been focused on preventing it from spilling over, namely into Lebanon, and sparking a regional war or an even wider conflict.
Hezbollah has clashed with Israel across the Lebanese border multiple times in the past week in the deadliest confrontations since they fought a month-long war in 2006. U.N. Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Beirut on Oct. 14, the United Nations said. Abdollahian then met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar, Al Jazeera TV reported.
On Oct. 15, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announced that it carried out more airstrikes on Hezbollah military infrastructure in Lebanon.
“At the same time, a report was received regarding a shooting toward IDF soldiers along the border of Lebanon,” the Israeli military said, adding that its soldiers in the area were “responding with live fire.”
As for the United States, additional attack aircraft have been deployed to the region, according to a statement from the U.S. Air Combat Command on Oct. 15. Already, the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier group was deployed to the eastern portion of the Mediterranean Sea last week, which was announced by Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin.
“A-10s from the 354th EFS have arrived to the US Central Command AOR (Area of Responsibility),” Air Combat Command wrote on social media on Oct. 15. “This arrival bolsters the U.S. defense posture, enhances air operations throughout the Middle East, and reassures our allies and regional partners we remain postured to protect and defend their freedom.”
Reuters contributed to this report.