Both Israel and the United States are investigating whether Iran supported Hamas’ surprise terrorist attacks against Israel, but officials say they have yet to see direct evidence of such Iranian support.
On Saturday, Palestinian militants launched rocket barrages and simultaneously breached the Gaza–Israel barrier in a coordinated surprise attack. Hundreds of people were killed and wounded in the attack, and the terrorists also took a large number of hostages.
Since the outbreak of the fighting, commentators have suggested that the Iranian government may have assisted in the planning and execution of the coordinated attacks. On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal published a report citing unnamed members of Hamas and Hezbollah who claimed Iranian officials joined the two groups at a meeting last week in Beirut, Lebanon to greenlight and to help plan the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations Bob Rae also told CTV on Sunday that there was “no question in [his] mind” that Iran is involved. Still, both U.S. and Israeli officials continue to search for evidence directly linking Iran to the attacks.
During a Sunday interview with CNN, when asked directly whether the United States has evidence of Iranian involvement in the attack, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. side has not yet seen such evidence, but said he remained open to the possibility of Iranian involvement in planning the attacks. Mr. Blinken said there is a long relationship between Iran and the Palestinian group Hamas—which is designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
“In fact, Hamas wouldn’t be around in the way that it is without the support that it’s received from Iran over the years,” Mr. Blinken said. “In this specific instance, we’ve not yet seen evidence that Iran directed or was behind this particular attack, but there’s certainly a long relationship.”
On Monday, Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Maj. Nir Dinar told Politico that “we have no evidence or proof” of Iranian involvement in the Oct. 7 attack, but also emphasized the surprise nature of the attacks, which Israeli intelligence organizations did not anticipate.
At a White House press briefing on Monday, National Security Council (NSC) spokesman John Kirby similarly denied having direct evidence of Iranian involvement in the attack, but pointed to Iran’s historic relationship with Hamas.
“Iran has been supporting Hamas for many, many years—tools, training, capabilities—certainly rhetorically but in more much more tangible ways than that. So, absolutely, there’s a degree of complicity here writ large,” Mr. Kirby said. “We are looking through the information streams. 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.”
Mr. Kirby said that along with their Israeli counterparts, the NSC would continue to look for evidence of Iranian involvement, but reiterated that neither the U.S. nor the Israeli governments can see a “smoking gun.”
“Obviously, nobody is walking away from the fact that Iran has long supported Hamas,” he added.
Iranian Supreme Leader Denies Involvement, Celebrates Results
On Monday, the Iranian mission to the United Nations denied any Iranian government involvement in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Still, the Iranian mission and other Iranian leaders were vocal in their support for the Hamas terrorist group in the wake of the attacks.
“Iran unwaveringly stands in solidarity with Palestine; however, it is important to note that Iran is not involved in Palestine’s response, as these actions are solely determined by the Palestinians themselves,” the Iranian mission to the U.N. said in a Monday press release.
The Iranian mission also shared a post on the X social media platform, suggesting the Israeli side was having difficulty accepting that Palestinian militants could have carried out such a destructive attack on their own, or believing that Israel’s intelligence systems may simply have failed to predict the attack.
“[The Israeli government is] attempting to justify their failure and attribute it to Iran’s intelligence power and operational planning,” the X post reads.
The Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued his own statement on Tuesday, in which he praised the attacks on Israel while rejecting the notion that anyone other than Hamas terrorists planned the attack.
“We kiss the foreheads and arms of the resourceful and intelligent designers [of the operation] and the Palestinian youth, but those who say that the recent great event is the work of non-Palestinians are making miscalculations,” the Iranian supreme leader said in a statement shared by Iranian state media.
Some Republicans Linking Biden-Iran Hostage Deal to Attacks
Some Republican politicians have suggested that Iranian support for the Oct. 7 attack on Israel could be linked to funds transferred to Iran as part of a recent prisoner exchange negotiated by President Joe Biden’s administration.
Last month, the Biden administration granted clemency to five Iranian nationals held in the United States on suspicions of violating U.S. sanctions and other criminal charges. The Biden administration released the five Iranian nationals and freed up $6 billion in Iranian assets in exchange for the return of five U.S. citizens who were being held in Iran.
Mr. Blinken has denied that the funds released as part of the prisoner exchange played a role in funding the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and insisted that Iran can only use the funds for humanitarian purposes.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and 2024 Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley rejected Mr. Blinken’s defense of the Iran prisoner exchange in a Monday interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” She argued that even if there are conditions on how Iran can spend the specific $6 billion tranche of funds from the prisoner exchange deal, the Iranian government can still free up other funds as a result of the deal.
“It was irresponsible for Secretary Blinken to say that the $6 billion doesn’t weigh in here,” Ms. Haley said. “Let’s be honest with the American people, and understand that Hamas knows, and Iran knows, they’re moving money around as we speak because they know $6 billion is going to be released. That’s the reality.”
NBC host Kristin Welker pushed back, noting that neither the U.S. nor Israeli governments had established clear evidence of Iranian involvement in the attacks on Israel.
“The evidence is: look at what the Iranian people have done to freedom-loving people around the world, look at what the Iranian people, the Iranian regime has done to threaten Israel over the years. To think that they’re not moving money around, [it] is irresponsible to say that to the American people,” Ms. Haley continued. “They are moving money around to threaten those they hate. They hate Israel, they hate America, they are going to continue to use this.”