TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on Tuesday that “no one can stop” forces opposed to Israel if it keeps up its bombardment of Gaza in response to the surprise attack by Hamas.
The Islamic republic has maintained close contacts with its allies across the region since Hamas militants stormed across the Gaza border with Israel and killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians.
Israel has responded to the attack with a devastating air and artillery bombardment of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip that has killed at least 2,750 Palestinians, also mostly civilians.
“If the crimes of the Zionist (Israeli) regime continue, Muslims and resistance forces will become impatient, and no one can stop them,” Khamenei said.
“No one should expect” that certain parties like Iran can “prevent the resistance forces” from taking action, said the supreme leader, who has the final say in major state policies in Iran.
“No matter what the Zionist regime does, it cannot make up for the scandalous failure it suffered,” Khamenei said.
“Regarding the situation in Gaza, we all have a responsibility to react; we must react,” Khamenei said, without detailing what a reaction may entail.
Officials in Iran often use the term “axis of resistance” to refer to the Islamic republic and its allied forces across the Middle East, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and other Shiite forces in Iraq and Syria.
Israel has deployed tens of thousands of troops on its border with Gaza in preparation for a full-scale ground offensive on the Palestinian territory.
It has told some 1.1 million Gazans - nearly half the territory’s population of 2.4 million - to leave the north of the densely populated enclave, in anticipation of the operation.
Iran has repeatedly warned a ground invasion of Gaza will be met with a response on other fronts - prompting fears of a wider conflict that could draw in other countries.
Its foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, spoke on Monday of possible “pre-emptive action” against Israel by the “resistance front” while President Ebrahim Raisi said time was running out to reach a political solution.
Amir-Abdollahian spoke by telephone on Tuesday about the situation with the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell, according to a statement from his ministry.
He described “the US encouragement of the Zionist regime to carry out more attacks against civilians in Gaza” as an important factor in the continuation and expansion of the war.
Tehran, which financially and militarily backs Hamas militants, celebrated the Hamas assault but insisted it was not involved.
Iran’s supreme leader criticised “officials of certain countries” for supporting Israel after the Hamas attacks.
He rejected as “untrue” that most of the Israelis killed were civilians, arguing that “those people in the settlements are all armed”.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has made support for the Palestinian cause one of the pillars of its foreign policy.