A senior leader for the Hamas terror group that mounted the bloody incursion into Israel that have killed at least 900 people claimed that Iran’s Islamic regime and Lebanese Hezbollah played no role in the attack but insisted they’re both ready to “join the battle” if Israel retaliates forcefully.
Ali Barakeh, a member of Hamas’s exiled leadership, made the remarks in an interview on Monday with The Associated Press in his office in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon.
Mr. Barakeh said that Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah, an Iran-backed terror group, have helped Hamas in the past, but that since the 2014 Gaza war, Hamas has been making its own rockets and training its own combatants.
He said that only a small handful of Hamas commanders knew detailed plans for the terror group’s incursion into Israel, which saw hundreds of Israelis massacred in cold blood.
Conflicting Messages on Iran Involvement
In response to Hamas’s deadly assault, Israeli leaders have declared war on the group, which is classified as an Islamist terrorist group by many nation’s governments, and have launched a massive military operation meant to degrade the terror organization’s ability to carry out further strikes against Israel.
Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza, pounded Hamas positions with missiles, and has vowed to prevail in a war that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was forced upon the country by a “horrendous enemy.”
The Hamas official, Mr. Barekh, claimed in his interview with The Associated Press that his organization was surprised by its fighters’ ability to penetrate Israeli defenses—while insisting that no Iranian security officials nor Lebanese Hezbollah members were involved.
However, he warned that allies like Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah “will join the battle if Gaza is subjected to a war of annihilation.”
His remarks stand in contrast with a statement by Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas spokesman, who told the BBC that the group had direct backing for the attack from Iran.
Also, a report in The Wall Street Journal claimed that senior members of both Hamas and Hezbollah had disclosed that Iranian security officials played a role in planning Hamas’s attack on Israel. The decision to launch the attack received approval at a meeting held in Beirut the previous Monday, per the report.
And Hamas’s Izzuddin Al-Qassam Brigades (IQB), which carried out the attack, praised Iran for its support.
“We thank the Islamic Republic of Iran who provided us with weapons, money, and other equipment!” a spokesperson of IQB said in a video clip being shared on social media. “He gave us missiles to destroy Zionist fortresses and helped us with standard anti-tank missiles!”
It is unclear when the statement was made.
The Hamas attack followed just days after Iran’s supreme leader, Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei, called for violence against Israel.
Meanwhile, Iran’s mission to the United Nations has denied direct involvement in Saturday’s attack.
“We emphatically stand in unflinching support of Palestine; however, we are not involved in Palestine’s response, as it is taken solely by Palestine itself,” Iran’s U.N. mission said in statement.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in press interviews on Sunday that the United States currently lacks concrete evidence to directly implicate Iran in the assault.
“In this moment, we don’t have anything that shows us that Iran was directly involved in this attack, in planning it or in carrying it out, but that’s something we’re looking at very carefully, and we’ve got to see where the facts lead,” Mr. Blinken said.
“But we do know that Iran’s had a long relationship with Hamas, long support. It’s one of the reasons that we have been aggressively working to counter Iran,” he added.
‘Most Gruesome’ Attack in Israel’s History
In his latest briefing on the attack, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus called the assault the “bloodiest, the biggest, and most gruesome” in Israel’s history.
He compared it to the 9/11 terror attacks and Pearl Harbor wrapped into one.
Mr. Conricus said that the majority of the 900 or so deaths and 2,000-plus injured are civilian because the attack perpetrated by Hamas “was focused on butchering and executing and massacring civilians in Israel.”
One of the most challenging aspects of Israel’s ongoing military response to the attack is that dozens of Israelis are being held in captivity in Gaza by Hamas operatives, he said, while calling the perpetrators of the attack “beasts.”
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday that his country would impose a “complete siege” on the Gaza Strip, vowing to cut off electricity and block the entry of food and fuel to Gaza, while labeling the Hamas terrorists as “human animals.”
In a televised address to the nation on Monday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said the perpetrators of the attacks were “monsters,” noting that not since the Holocaust had so many Jews been killed in one day.
Naveen Athrapully and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times