Oct 14, 2023 - World

Scoop: Iran warns Israel through UN against ground offensive in Gaza

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Beirut. Photo: Marwan Naamani/picture alliance via Getty Images

Iran sent a message to Israel on Saturday stressing that it does not want further escalation in the Hamas-Israel war, but that it will have to intervene if the Israeli operation in Gaza continues, two diplomatic sources with knowledge of the situation told Axios.

Why it matters: The fighting between Hamas and Israel will turn into a regional war if Iran gets involved either directly or indirectly, such as through a militant group in Syria or by backing any Hezbollah decision to fully join the fighting.

  • Iran's message, sent to Israel through the UN, comes as the Biden administration has been trying to deter Iran and Lebanon-backed Hezbollah, supported by Iran, from joining the war. This week, the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier group and fighter jets to the region.

Behind the scenes: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with UN envoy to the Middle East Tor Wennesland on Saturday in Beirut, the two diplomatic sources said.

  • Wennesland urged Amir-Abdollahian to help prevent a spillover of the conflict in Gaza and Israel to the wider region in the Middle East.
  • The Iranian foreign minister replied that Iran doesn't want the conflict to turn into a regional war and wants to try to help with the release of civilians who are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.
  • But Amir-Abdollahian stressed that Iran has its red lines. He said that if the Israeli military operation continues — and especially if Israel follows through on its promise of a ground offensive in Gaza — Iran will have to respond, according to the sources.

Wennesland called Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and other officials and conveyed Iran's message, the sources said.

  • Wennesland's office confirmed he met with Amir-Abdollahian on Saturday, saying they discussed "diplomatic efforts to release hostages, de-escalate and prevent a spillover of the conflict to the wider region."
  • The Israeli Prime Minister's Office declined to comment. Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

What they're saying: Amir-Abdollahian, who earlier met with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, said in a briefing with reporters in Beirut on Saturday that Israel must "stop the crimes against civilians in Gaza — because it might be too late in a few hours."

  • "I know about the scenarios that Hezbollah has put in place," Amir-Abdollahian said. "Any step the resistance will take will cause a huge earthquake" for Israel.

The big picture: The latest fighting between Hamas and Israel began Oct. 7.

  • Israel has continued its heavy bombardment of the Gaza Strip after Hamas' attack on Israel last Saturday. Violence also has been escalating along the Israel-Lebanon border and in the occupied West Bank.
  • More than 1,300 Israelis and 2,200 Palestinians have been killed.

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