Doha: Iran on Sunday warned that any Israeli ground offensive in the Gaza Strip could expand the scope of the conflict elsewhere in the Middle East.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian held talks with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, as Israeli troops massed on the border with Gaza.
“No one can guarantee the control of the situation and the non-expansion of the conflicts,” he said, according to an Iranian foreign ministry statement.
“Those who are interested in preventing the scope of war and crisis from expanding, need to prevent the current barbaric attacks… against citizens and civilians in Gaza,” he added.
Amir-Abdollahian also criticised the United States, which has given its unequivocal backing to Israel since the October 7 attacks by Hamas fighters that left 1,400 people dead in Israel.
Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip have since killed more than 2,300 people. On both sides, the toll was mostly civilians.
In Washington, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the United States feared an escalation of war, and the prospect of Iran — Israel’s long-time foe and supporter of Hamas — becoming “directly engaged”.
Iran’s top diplomat was in Qatar on Sunday as part of a regional tour that also included stops in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
Israel has stationed troops and tanks on its UN-patrolled northern border with Lebanon and closed a four kilometre (2.5 mile) wide zone to civilians after deadly exchanges of cross-border fire with Iran-backed group Hezbollah.
Western countries that support Israel have warned against a regional spillover of the conflict.
The United States has deployed a second aircraft carrier to the region in an effort to “deter hostile actions against Israel”, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said.
Hamas took more than 120 hostages in last weekend’s attack.
Sunday’s Iranian foreign ministry statement said Amir-Abdollahian had met high-ranking Hamas officials in Beirut and Doha who described “the issue of civilian prisoners as a priority” and would “take the necessary measures”.
But there was no further detail on what those would be.
Amir-Abdollahian also met in Beirut with Tor Wennesland, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“All of the Security Council 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 the Special Coordinator, Tor Wennesland’s recent meetings in Lebanon,” Dujarric said.
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