WASHINGTON: Missile attacks in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen on Saturday (Jan 20) threw into sharp focus the increasing risk of the war in Gaza triggering a wider regional conflict pitting Iran and its allies against Israel and the United States.
Iran said five of its Revolutionary Guards were killed in a missile strike on a house in Damascus which it blamed on Israel, and security sources in Lebanon said an Israeli strike there killed a member of Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Later on Saturday an American official said a missile or rocket attack had injured US personnel at a base in Iraq, a country where Iran-backed groups have previously battled US forces.
The United States also said it had targeted a missile the Iran-backed Houthi group in Yemen was aiming into the Red Sea, which it called a threat to shipping.
The conflict in Gaza began on Oct 7 when Hamas fighters stormed border defences to attack Israeli bases and towns, killing more than 1,200 people and seizing more than 200 hostages.
Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Saturday while its planes dropped leaflets on the southern area of Rafah urging Palestinians seeking refuge there to help locate hostages held by Hamas, residents said.
Hamas is part of Iran’s “Axis of Resistance”, a regional alliance that also includes Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, Shi’ite militia groups in Iraq and the Houthis who control much of Yemen.
Amid increased regional tensions, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi vowed to punish Israel for its strike in Syria, calling it “crimes” that would not go unanswered, according to a statement on Iran state broadcaster IRIB.
Three of the Revolutionary Guards officers killed in the Israeli strike were described in Iranian state media with an honorific used only for generals, suggesting the targets were senior commanders.
There was no comment from Israel, which typically does not discuss such attacks publicly.
Israel’s intense bombardment of Gaza since Oct 7, which health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave say has killed nearly 25,000 Palestinians, quickly triggered border clashes between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.