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  4. Iran's Supreme Leader accuses Israel of 'ethnic cleansing' in Gaza, warns of escalation as situation worsens

Iran's Supreme Leader accuses Israel of 'ethnic cleansing' in Gaza, warns of escalation as situation worsens

The Iranian supreme leader warned that if the "atrocities" against Gazans continue, Muslims would "lose their patience" and no one can control what they will do. He had earlier denied Iran's involvement in the deadly Hamas attacks on Israel.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Tehran Published on: October 17, 2023 19:06 IST
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Image Source : AP Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday warned Israel of perpetrating 'ethnic cleansing' in the Gaza Strip, saying that Muslims and resistance forces could lose patience and the escalating situation cannot be controlled.

"The world is bearing witness to the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Zionist regime. All parties should refrain from asking anyone to prevent a group from taking steps in response to the crimes of the Zionists," CNN quoted Khamenei as saying during a speech in Tehran.

Although the US and other countries like France could not establish a direct link between Iran and the Hamas attacks on Israel that killed hundreds, Iran is known as the primary backer of Hamas as well as the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group, both locked in a fierce conflict with Israel.

Iran has recently threatened an "expansion of war fronts" if Israel continues its war against Gaza. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, in an interview with media, said Iran "cannot stand idly by and watch" as the war escalates to a looming ground invasion by Israel.

Khamenei had earlier denied Iran's involvement in the attacks. US President Joe Biden, his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have also warned Iran to "be careful" with its actions in the region and avoid escalating the Israel-Hamas war.

Netanyahu warns Iran and Hezbollah

Meanwhile, cross-border fires between Israeli forces and Hezbollah continue at the Lebanese border with at least six anti-tank missiles fired by the Hezbollah group, reported The Times of Israel.

On the previous day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a stern warning to Iran and Hezbollah against intervening in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.  "Don’t try us, you will be severely harmed. Do not repeat your previous mistake because the price you will pay will be much worse," he said in the Knesset.

This comes after Amirabdollahian warned Israel of 'a huge earthquake', saying that the ongoing war with Hamas will expand to other countries in the Middle East if Hezbollah decides to get involved. "I know about the scenarios that Hezbollah has put in place. Any step the resistance (Hezbollah) will take will cause a huge earthquake in the Zionist entity," said the Iranian Foreign Minister.

Hezbollah fighters have been on full alert along Lebanon's borders with Israel following last Saturday's attack by the militant Palestinian group Hamas that left hundreds of Israeli civilians and soldiers dead. It has praised the Hamas attack, saying that the militants had "divine backing".

What is happening in Gaza?

The brutal attack by Hamas on Israel claimed the lives of at least 1,400 people. Israeli strikes have killed at least 2,778 people and wounded 9,700 others in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry.

The Israeli military said Monday at least 199 hostages were taken into Gaza, more than previously estimated. Hamas said it was holding 200 to 250 hostages and has demanded the release of 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages.

Additionally, dozens of people were killed in Israeli airstrikes on southern Gaza on Tuesday where it had directed Palestinians to flee ahead of a possible ground invasion to root out Hamas militants. asem Naim, a senior Hamas official and former health minister, reported 27 people were killed in Rafah and 30 in Khan Younis.

Israel has massed troops at the border for an expected ground offensive, but Israel Defence Forces (IDF) international spokesperson Lt Col Richard Hecht said Tuesday no concrete decisions have been made.

More than 1 million Palestinians have fled their homes, and 60% are now in the approximately 14-kilometre (8-mile) long area south of the evacuation zone, according to the UN. Mediators were trying to reach a cease-fire to open the Rafah border crossing near Egypt, which shut down last week after Israeli airstrikes.

(with agency inputs)

ALSO READ | Hamas demands 6,000 Palestinians to be released from Israeli prisons in exchange for hostages

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