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Iran: Gaza war is going to get much bigger very soon

Fire and smoke rises from buildings following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City.

Fire and smoke rises from buildings following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City. Photo: Getty

Iran has warned the scale of civilian suffering caused by Israel’s war on Hamas will inevitably lead to an expansion of the conflict, as officials in Gaza report Israeli air strikes on or near several hospitals in the Palestinian enclave.

The comments from Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian could ramp up concerns over whether Washington’s diplomatic efforts and deployment of US naval forces to the eastern Mediterranean will be able to keep the conflict from further destabilising the Middle East.

“Due to the expansion of the intensity of the war against Gaza’s civilian residents, expansion of the scope of the war has become inevitable,” Amir-Abdollahian told his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Thursday night.

Iran’s state-run Press TV reported the comments, made during a telephone conversation, on Friday.

Humanitarian catastrophe

Israel’s bombardment and siege of Gaza over the past month has created a humanitarian catastrophe, with thousands seeking medical treatment and shelter in the few hospitals still open, with those in the combat zone operating in grave danger.

“The Israeli occupation launched simultaneous strikes on a number of hospitals during the past hours,” Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra claimed on Al Jazeera television.

Qidra said an Israeli strike hit a courtyard in the Al Shifa hospital, the biggest in Gaza City, causing casualties, but he did not provide details.

Israel said Hamas has hidden command centres and tunnels beneath Al Shifa, and other hospitals such as the Indonesian Hospital, allegations Hamas denies.

Israel’s military did not directly comment on Qidra’s statement, but it has said it does not target civilians.

“While the world sees neighbourhoods with schools, hospitals, scout groups, children’s playgrounds and mosques, Hamas sees an opportunity to exploit,” Israel’s military said in a statement.

Iran supports Hamas but says it did not play any role in the militants’ bloody attack on Israel last month that triggered the crisis.

Iran’s clients

Iran also backs the Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group that has deep ties with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian faction in Gaza that is also backed by Iran.

The month-old Israeli military campaign to wipe out Hamas, following the militants’ October 7 raid on southern Israel which left some 1400 men, women and children killed and a further 240 taken as hostages, has left Gaza’s hospitals struggling to cope. Medical supplies, clean water and fuel for generators have been running out.

Israel said it has lost 35 soldiers in Gaza.

Palestinian officials said 10,812 Gaza residents had been killed as of Thursday, about 40 per cent of them children, in air and artillery strikes.

Israel’s military advance on central Gaza City, which brought tanks within about 1.2km of Al Shifa, according to residents, has raised questions about how Israel will interpret international laws on protecting medical centres and displaced people sheltering there.

Deadly air strikes on refugee camps, a medical convoy and near hospitals have already prompted fierce arguments among some of Israel’s Western allies over its military’s adherence to international law.

The Israeli military has allowed some wounded Palestinian civilians to cross into Egypt for treatment.

Biden’s plea

US President Joe Biden said in a post on X on Thursday that Israel has “an obligation to distinguish between terrorists and civilians and fully comply with international law”.

The White House on Thursday said Israel agreed to pause military operations in parts of north Gaza for four hours a day, but there was no sign of a let-up in the fighting.

The pauses, which would allow people to flee along two humanitarian corridors and could be used for the release of hostages, were significant first steps, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested any pauses would be scattered, and there was no official confirmation of a plan for recurring breaks.

Asked if there would be a “stoppage” in fighting, Netanyahu said on the Fox News Channel: “No. The fighting continues against the Hamas enemy, the Hamas terrorists, but in specific locations for a given period of a few hours here or a few hours there.

“We want to facilitate the safe passage of civilians away from the zone of fight and we’re doing that.”

-AAP

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