December 3, 2023

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Iran and Hezbollah did not encourage or help plan Israeli incursion, Hamas commander says

A top Hamas commander said Monday that contrary to reports, Iran was not involved in planning or encouraging the militants’ Saturday attacks of Israel.

Ali Barakeh said only about a half dozen top commanders within Gaza knew about the assault, which had been planned for a year.

Speaking in Beirut, the member of Hamas’ exiled leadership expressed confidence that allies such as Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon would “join the battle if Gaza is subjected to a war of annihilation” but said they had nothing to do with the planning.

Israel has vowed vengeance, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing retaliation that would “reverberate with them for generations” in an address to the nation on Monday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Iran encouraged and helped plan the attack and even gave a thumbs-up to Hamas last Monday in Beirut, citing senior members of Hamas and fellow militant group Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon. Another Hamas official, spokesman Ghazi Hamad, said the same to BBC News.

Barakeh rejected such reports on Monday, saying that no one from Hamas’ political bureau or the group’s central command was in Beirut last week. He said Hamas has produced rockets and trained fighters on its own since the 2014 Gaza war without assistance from Iran and Hezbollah, though the two parties previously provided help.

None of Hamas’ allies was informed of the plot in advance, Barakeh insisted.

“Only a handful of Hamas commanders knew about the zero hour,” he said.

He also refuted international speculation that Iran’s potential involvement was aimed at derailing a U.S.-supported effort to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The true impetus came from Netanyahu’s right-wing government, he said, expressing surprise that the attack nicknamed “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm” initially met with so little Israeli military resistance.

“We were surprised by this great collapse,” Barakeh said. “We were planning to make some gains and take prisoners to exchange them. This army was a paper tiger.”

With News Wire Services

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