Iran took the lead in celebrations following the surprise attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on Tehran’s arch-enemy Israel, even as it rejected accusations of direct involvement.
The Islamic republic’s backing was made manifest by billboards installed in Tehran’s major plazas, including Palestine Square.
“The great liberation has begun,” proclaimed one while a second showed the black and white chequerboard of the Palestinian keffiyeh gradually subsuming the white and blue flag of Israel.
The enormous images went on display just hours after Hamas launched its deadly and unexpected assault, dubbed “Al-Aqsa Flood”, on Saturday.
Iran has made support for the Palestinian cause a centrepiece of its foreign policy and much is at stake for Tehran in the war between Israel and Hamas.
Despite its vocal support, Tehran on Monday rejected allegations it had a direct role in organising the assault.
“The accusations of an Iranian role… are based on political motives,” foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said at his first weekly news conference since the attack.
Kanani said the Islamic republic does not intervene “in the decision-making of other countries, including Palestine” and threatened Israel with a “devastating response” if it were to attack Iran.
Iran’s permanent mission to the United Nations also denied allegations of the country’s involvement, in a statement issued overnight.
The Islamic republic’s backing was made manifest by two billboards installed in Tehran’s major plazas, including this one on Vali-Asr Square. PHOTO: AFP
During a visit to Lebanon in early September, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with officials from the Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, reaffirming Iran’s strong support for “resistance”.
A report at the weekend in the Wall Street Journal said that “Iranian security officials helped plan Hamas’s Saturday surprise attack on Israel and gave the green light for the assault at a meeting in Beirut last Monday”, citing senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah.
A senior White House official reacted cautiously to the claims, stating on Sunday that it was “too early to say” if Iran was “directly involved” in the attack.
But the official acknowledged there had been “no doubt” that Hamas was “financed, equipped, and armed”, among other things, by Tehran.
Ahmad Zeidabadi, a political scientist, said it appeared the Islamic republic was unwilling to get directly involved but that they “expect Hamas to be able to change the situation on its own”.
However, he said, Tehran “might be interested at some point” in having its other “aligned groups” such as Hezbollah in Lebanon “reduce the pressure on Gaza by opening a new front” on Israel’s northern border.
A strengthened Hamas would be a major boon for Iran, said Zeidabadi, but it would be “a debacle for the Islamic republic” if Hamas were to have “all its political, economic and military infrastructure destroyed”.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi reacted on Sunday to the attack by saying his country “supports the legitimate defence of the Palestinian nation,” after phone talks with Palestinian militant leaders.
“Coordination with the axis of resistance continues,” Ismail Sindawi, Islamic Jihad’s representative in Syria said on Monday, referring to the alliance of political parties and militant groups that stretches from Lebanon to Afghanistan.
The surprise attack came with the backdrop of efforts by the United States to push for a deal normalising diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Iranians hold the Palestinian flag at a rally in support of Hamas’ attack on Israel. PHOTO: AFP
That would follow on from historic treaties with Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and others.
Iran has been highly critical of these efforts and on Sunday, the chief of staff for Iran’s armed forces, Mohammad Bagheri, called normalisation “desperate efforts” that will not “slow down” Israel’s “collapse”.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last week labelled them a losing gamble.
For Tehran, normalisation adds extra importance to Hamas’s survival and success, said Zeidabadi, the political scientist.
“If Hamas is completely defeated, the path to normalisation of relations will open up because there is no other practical alternative to Israel,” Zeidabadi said.
“But if Hamas wins, this agreement will be postponed for some time.”
PM Sunak cancels meeting with Greek PM over Parthenon sculptures
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused his British counterpart Rishi Sunak of cancelling a scheduled meeting in London on Tuesday in a diplomatic row over the status of the Parthenon Sculptures.
Greece has repeatedly asked the British Museum to permanently return the 2,500-year-old sculptures that British diplomat Lord Elgin removed from the Parthenon temple in the early 19th century when he was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.
“I express my annoyance that the British Prime Minister cancelled our planned meeting just hours before it was due to take place,” Mitsotakis said in a statement.
“Greece’s positions on the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures are well known. I had hoped to have the opportunity to discuss them with my British counterpart. Anyone who believes in the rightness and justice of his positions is never afraid of confronting arguments,” he said.
The Greek government has been in discussions with British Museum chair George Osborne on a possible loan deal for the sculptures, which have been a source of dispute between the two countries for centuries.
Mitsotakis complained in an interview with the BBC on Sunday that talks over a possible return of the sculptures to Athens were not advancing quickly enough.
He said that the continued presence of the sculptures in the British Museum was like cutting the “Mona Lisa in half” and it was not a question of ownership but “reunification”.
A British government official, who asked not to be named, said the row over the marbles meant it was not suitable for the meeting to go ahead.
Earlier, a spokesperson for Sunak said there were no plans to return the sculptures.
Asked about Mitsotakis’ statement, Sunak’s office said Britain’s relationship with Greece was “hugely important” and the two countries needed to work together on global challenges like tackling illegal migration.
Deputy British Prime Minister Oliver Dowden was available to meet Mitsotakis to discuss these issues instead, Sunak’s office said.
The British government has always ruled out giving up ownership of the marbles, which include about half of the 160-metre (525-ft) frieze that adorned the Parthenon, and says they were legally acquired.
A law prevents the British museum from removing objects from the collection apart from in certain circumstances, but the legislation does not prohibit a loan.
A meeting between Mitsotakis and British opposition leader Keir Starmer went ahead on Monday as planned. The Financial Times last week reported that Starmer would not block a “mutually acceptable” loan deal for the sculptures.
Labour declined to comment.
Deal reached to extend Israel-Hamas truce in Gaza by two days
Mediator Qatar said on Monday a deal had been reached to extend a truce between Israeli and Hamas forces in Gaza by two days, continuing a pause in seven weeks of warfare that has killed thousands and laid waste to the Palestinian enclave.
“An agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip,” a Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson said in a post on social media platform X.
There was no immediate comment from Israel, but a White House official confirmed agreement had been reached.
Hamas also said it had agreed a two-day extension to the truce with Qatar and Egypt, who have been facilitating indirect negotiations between the two sides. There was no immediate comment from Israel.
“An agreement has been reached with the brothers in Qatar and Egypt to extend the temporary humanitarian truce by two more days, with the same conditions as in the previous truce,” a Hamas official said in a phone call with Reuters.
Before the statements, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service, Diaa Rashwan, had said an extension agreement was close and would include the release of 20 Israeli hostages from among those seized by Hamas during its Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel. In exchange 60 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails would be freed, he said.
The initial truce was due to end on early Tuesday morning.
On Sunday, Hamas freed 17 people, including a 4-year-old Israeli-American girl, bringing the total number the militant group has released since Friday to 58, including foreigners. Israel freed 39 teenage Palestinian prisoners on Sunday, taking the total number of Palestinians freed under the truce to 117.
Alon Ben David, a senior defence correspondent for Israeli Channel 13 described the conditions of the captives recently released by Hamas saying the hostages were “treated well by Hamas and they were not subjected to torture or ill-treatment.” pic.twitter.com/rsb2kjRZaZ
— Clash Report (@clashreport) November 27, 2023
An Israeli government spokesperson said on Monday that the total number of hostages still held in Gaza was now 184, including 14 foreigners and 80 Israelis with dual nationality.
Once the truce ends, Netanyahu said at the weekend, “we will return with full force to achieve our goals: the elimination of Hamas; ensuring that Gaza does not return to what it was; and of course the release of all our hostages.”
Released Palestinian prisoners leave the Israeli military prison, Ofer, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank November 26, 2023. PHOTO: REUTERS
Palestinians in Gaza said on Monday they were praying for an extension of the truce. Some were visiting homes reduced to rubble by weeks of intensive Israeli bombardment, while others queued for flour and other essential aid being delivered by the United Nations’ relief agency UNRWA.
The al-Sultan family, among hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes in the north of the Gaza Strip, snatched a few hours of sorely needed relaxation by the sea.
“We used these four days (of truce) and came to the beach in Deir Al-Balah to allow our children to have some fun,” their mother, Hazem Al Sultan, said. “We are anticipating the end of these four days, and we don’t know what will happen to us next.”
Palestinians gave the freed prisoners a jubilant reception in Ramallah, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Omar Abdullah Al Hajj, 17, released on Sunday, told Reuters he’d been kept in the dark about what was happening in the outside world.
Released Palestinian prisoner Khalil Zamareh is received by his family near Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, November 27, 2023. PHOTO: REUTERS
“We were 11 people crammed into a single room where usually there are six. There was never enough food and I was never told how long I was going to stay,” he said.
“I can’t believe I’m free now but my joy is incomplete because we still have our brothers who remain in prison,” said Al Hajj, whom Israel’s Justice Ministry accused of belonging to the Islamic Jihad group and posing a security threat which it did not specify.
The truce agreed last week is the first halt in fighting in the seven weeks since Hamas attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages back into Gaza.
In response to that attack, Israel has bombarded the enclave and mounted a ground offensive in the north. Some 14,800 Palestinians have been killed, Gaza health authorities say, and hundreds of thousands displaced.
Palestinians fleeing north Gaza move southward as trucks carrying aid and fuel head towards north Gaza, near Gaza City, November 27, 2023. PHOTO: REUTERS
Qatar, Egypt, the United States, the European Union and Spain were all working to extend the ceasefire, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said during a conference in Barcelona devoted to the crisis.
Al-Maliki, whose Authority runs the occupied West Bank, told the Forum for the Union of the Mediterranean that the international community must pressure Israel to extend the truce indefinitely. The death toll would double if war resumes on Tuesday, he added.
The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told the same conference the current truce was an important first step but that far more would be needed to alleviate the situation.
Borrell also urged Israel not to “recolonise Gaza”, saying that the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza was the best guarantee of Israel’s peace and security.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said Hamas could no longer rule Gaza after hostilities end since it did not have “an agenda for peace”.
Indian diplomat flees NY Gurdwara over assassination plot
A senior Indian diplomat faced confrontation from pro-Khalistan Sikhs at a Gurdwara in New York, leading to his abrupt departure from the place of worship.
The activists questioned the diplomat, Taranjit Sandhu, about his alleged role in a failed Indian state plot to assassinate Sikh leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a prominent figure associated with Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) and the global Khalistan Referendum campaign.
Pro-Khalistan Sikhs, led by Himmat Singh at Hicksville Gurdwara in New York, confronted Ambassador Taranjit Sandhu over his alleged involvement in the failed assassination plot against Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.
The activists also accused Sandhu of India’s role in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the President of Surrey Gurdwara and the coordinator for the Canadian Chapter of the Khalistan Referendum.
The questioning in public agitated the diplomat, prompting him to abruptly leave the Gurdwara without providing any answers to the raised questions. Diplomat Sandhu hastily departed the scene, avoiding further engagement with the pro-Khalistan Sikhs.
“I only wanted answers from ambassador Sandhu as to why India is using violence to stop the global Khalistan Referendum voting,” stated Himmat Singh who heads the East Coast Coordination Committee.
“American constitution gives US Citizens the right to peacefully question anyone irrespective of their affiliation or position in the government,” stated Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, SFJ General Counsel who was the target of India’s assassination plot foiled by US intelligence.
“Despite India’s attempt to assassinate me, Khalistan Referendum Voting will continue and the American Phase is going to start from January 28, 2024 in San Francisco, California,” stated Pannun.
The confrontation follows the recent revelation of a thwarted Indian conspiracy to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil.
The US authorities issued a warning to the Indian government over its alleged involvement in the plot according to multiple people familiar with the case who spoke to the Financial Times (FT).
FT revealed the intelligence people familiar with the case said the Indian government was behind the scheme targeting Pannun, who has been spearheading the Khalistan Referendum campaign.
The FT said that one person familiar with the situation said the US protest was issued after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a high-profile state visit to Washington in June.
According to FT US federal prosecutors have filed a sealed indictment, separate from the diplomatic warning, against at least one alleged perpetrator of the plot in a New York district court.
The department is considering whether to unseal the indictment and make the allegations public or await the completion of Canada’s investigation into Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s murder, a Canadian Sikh separatist linked to the case.
In September, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there was “credible intelligence” linking New Delhi to Nijjar’s fatal shooting.
Wheat in ample supply, minister confirms
PSX crosses 60,000 points milestone
PM Sunak cancels meeting with Greek PM over Parthenon sculptures
Pakistan team finally issued visas for World Cup in India
Regional players to meet in Russia on Afghanistan
Attack plots the norm since Danish cartoon crisis: experts
World4 weeks ago
Lebanon’s Hezbollah works to curb hefty losses in Israel clashes
Pakistan4 weeks ago
Two more PTI leaders jump ship
Business4 weeks ago
With larger fall, rupee near 1-month low
Business4 weeks ago
Potential sectors for revenue
Technology4 weeks ago
Apple revamps Mac lineup and pricing with new family of chips
Pakistan4 weeks ago
Two remaining abducted footballers return home
Pakistan4 weeks ago
Two soldiers martyred in exchange of fire with terrorists
Pakistan4 weeks ago
Thousands rally in Islamabad for Gaza