Hamas inflicted an “irreparable” defeat on Israel, according to Iran’s ruling cleric, who denied responsibility for the terrorist attack but vowed that Israel’s response would lead to a “greater disaster” for the Jewish state.
“From the military and intelligence aspects, this defeat is irreparable,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told an audience of Iranian military cadets, per Iranian media. “It is a devastating earthquake. It is unlikely that the usurping regime will be able to use the help of the West to repair the deep impacts that this incident has left on its ruling structures.”
Iran has functioned as a longtime patron of Palestinian terrorist organizations, including Hamas, as well as Lebanese Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border. Those relationships underpin the question of Iranian regime involvement in the Hamas attack unleashed on Saturday and, with it, the potential for the crisis to expand into a multifront war, but Khamenei disclaimed any direct responsibility.
“We kiss the foreheads and arms of skillful and intelligent designers and Palestinian youth, but those who say that the recent epic is the work of non-Palestinians suffer from miscalculation,” Khamenei said.
Iran has been characterized as having varying degrees of culpability in the Hamas attack. Hamas sources reportedly have given contradictory accounts of Iran’s role, while U.S. and European observers have emphasized Iran’s general support for the terrorists, even as U.S. military leaders and forces maneuver to warn Tehran not to try to widen the conflict.
“There’s a degree of complicity here, but Iran has been supporting Hamas for many, many years,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Monday. “We haven’t seen hard, tangible evidence that Iran was directly involved in participating in or resourcing and planning these sets of complex attacks that Hamas pulled off over the weekend. Again, we’re going to keep looking at it.”
“And just as the forces of civilization united to defeat ISIS, the forces of civilization must support Israel in defeating Hamas,” Netanyahu said on Monday. “In fighting Hamas, Israel is not only fighting for its own people. It is fighting for every country that stands against barbarism. Israel will win this war, and when Israel wins, the entire civilized world wins.”
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip, which is home to about 2.3 million Palestinians, and Israeli officials urged Palestinian civilians to try to flee the city centers. In addition to the border with Israel, the Gaza Strip is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea and the border with Egypt, which only operates one border crossing with the Palestinian-populated area.
“We are putting a complete siege on Gaza,” Gallant said on Monday. “No electricity, no food, no water, no gas — it’s all closed. We’re fighting animals and are acting accordingly.”
A senior Hamas official warned Israel on Tuesday that Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah “will join the battle if Gaza is subjected to a war of annihilation,” according to the Associated Press.
“Only a handful of Hamas commanders knew about the zero hour,” the exiled senior Hamas official Ali Barakeh told the Associated Press in an interview from Beirut. “We were surprised by this great collapse. … We were planning to make some gains and take prisoners to exchange them. This army was a paper tiger.”
In the event, Hamas raiders are believed to have taken at least 150 hostages. They killed more than 998 Israelis and left another 3,400 people injured, according to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, making the weekend assault one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in history. The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 claimed the lives of 2,977 people. The terrorist attack and Israel’s response have led to the deaths of a combined 1,800 Israelis and Palestinians, according to figures.
“A senior Israeli government source said Monday that Israel has indications that Iran pushed Hamas into carrying out its massive infiltration and deadly assault, and that Iran was also pushing Hezbollah to be ready for conflict with Israel,” the Times of Israel reported.
Khamenei predicted that Israeli military operations would backfire. “The calculation of the illegitimate regime and its supporters in this regard is also wrong,” he said. “The rulers and decision-makers of the Zionist regime and their supporters should know that these actions will bring a greater disaster upon them, and the Palestinian people, with a firmer determination, will slap their hideous faces harder in response to these crimes.”