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Iran says Gaza war will grow if truce doesn't hold

By AFP

November 23, 2023 11:21 AM


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Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian warned Wednesday that the threat of the Gaza war spreading would grow unless a truce between Israel and Hamas lasts, in an interview as he visited Beirut.

"If this ceasefire starts tomorrow, if it does not continue... the conditions in the region will not remain the same as before the ceasefire and the scope of the war will expand," Amir-Abdollahian told the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen television channel, according to Iran's Fars news agency.

"We do not seek to expand the scope of the war," he added. "If the intensity of the war increases, every possibility is conceivable for the expansion of the scope of the war."

Israel and Hamas said Wednesday they had agreed a four-day truce in the Gaza war.

The Palestinian militants would free at least 50 hostages taken in their deadly October 7 attack. In return, Israel would release at least 150 Palestinian prisoners and allow more humanitarian aid into the coastal territory after more than six weeks of bombardment.

Amir-Abdollahian said Iran saw two options: "First, a humanitarian ceasefire that turns into a permanent ceasefire."

"The second way is to threaten the Palestinian people, then the Palestinian people will decide for themselves," he said, adding that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Netanyahu cannot fulfil his dream of destroying Hamas."

"We support whatever decision Hamas makes," he added in the interview, according to Fars.

- 'Intentional crime' -

In his second visit to Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war started, Iran's top diplomat met with senior Lebanese and Palestinian officials.

The frontier between Lebanon and Israel has seen escalating exchanges of fire, mainly between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, but also Palestinian groups, raising fears of a broader conflagration.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati emphasised the need for a total ceasefire and to "stop the Israeli aggression on Gaza", a statement from his office said after his meeting with Amir-Abdollahian.

Mikati also urged "influential countries to pressure Israel to stop its attacks on south Lebanon, and stop its targeting of civilians and journalists in particular".

The Iranian diplomat also met with Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally, discussing the war and "strengthening the stability and security of the region", Iran's foreign ministry said.

He also met with the secretary general of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad Ziyad al-Nakhalah, and senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya. They discussed "the impending ceasefire process", according to the Iranian ministry.

Earlier Wednesday, Hezbollah said its chief Hassan Nasrallah had met with Hamas's Hayya and Osama Hamdan, another senior official from the Palestinian group, to discuss "coordination", according to a statement.

The Shiite Muslim movement claimed a string of cross-border attacks on Israeli positions on Wednesday, as Lebanon's official National News Agency reported Israeli bombardment along the southern border.

Israeli attacks on south Lebanon on Tuesday killed eight people, official media said, including two journalists from Al-Mayadeen.

Lebanon's foreign ministry said Beirut had filed a complaint with the UN Security Council over the journalists' deaths, calling it an "intentional crime".

Hamas's armed wing meanwhile said that a senior leader in its military wing in Lebanon, Khalil al-Kharraz, had been killed in south Lebanon on Tuesday.

In a separate statement, Hamas said two Lebanese citizens and two Turkish nationals were also killed Tuesday in south Lebanon.


AFP


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