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Iran’s role in the current war in Gaza

2 nov 2023

Luis Fernando Sartorius

On October 7th, 2023, Hamas militant groups carried out a violent, outrageous, and dreadful terrorist attack against Israel which caused the death of around 1,400 people and more than 220 civilians were taken back to the Gaza Strip as hostages. This event detonated dull days for all the citizens that live within the borders of the Gaza Strip which have been under non-stop bombings from Israel’s self-defense, as it was called by U.S Secretary Antony Blinken, resulting in the death of thousands of Palestinian civilians.


Who is Hamas?


Hamas, considered by the United States and other countries as a terrorist group, was founded in 1988 (right after the first intifada) as an “adjunct organization with the specific mission of confronting Israel”[1]. Unlike Fatah, negotiations with Israel are not an option on their agenda. Hamas does not recognize Israel but accepts a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders[2].


Hamas began control over the Gaza Strip since 2007, however, most of the Palestinian citizens do not trust the Hamas-led government.[3] Israel and Hamas have been in constant conflict ever since.


Although being Sunni, Hamas has had a longtime relationship with Iran. Whether Iran provided Hamas with some sort of support to carry out the October 7th attack is yet to be confirmed (Iran denies any link), however it makes rhetorical sense when we think, first, that this attack will inevitably trigger Israel to strike back at Gaza, jeopardizing the US-led peace treaties between Israel and Saudi Arabia; and also, if we analyze that the massive attacks over Gaza ultimately will daunt Israel from attacking Iran. Nevertheless, Hamas is only one of the four fronts Iran supports to fight against the “Zionist regime”.


Lebanon (Hezbollah)


In 1982, to fight Israel’s invasion to Lebanon, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGG) sent around 5,000 fighters to fight in the south of Lebanon. These fighters decided to settle in the south and formed what’s now known as Hezbollah. This group commands a large portion of the Shia population in Lebanon and it’s one of the biggest enemies of Israel in the region. Both Hamas and Hezbollah, share the same armed resistance objective against Israel.


Hezbollah and Israel have a long story of battling one another. The most remembered one was that of 2006, when Hezbollah and Israel fought each other for 34 days. This specific war is important to mention since the outcome of it was a “Divine Victory” for Hezbollah and a “missed opportunity to Israel” after both agreed to ceasefire.

Hezbollah is actively involved in the current war backing Hamas against Israel to an unobserved scale since the 34-day war in 2006, although, unlikely to escalate to a direct war between them. 


Syria and Iraq


Unlike Iraq, Syria is largely a Sunni country with Shiite rulers, unanimously turning them into an ally of Iran. The Al-Assad family has ruled Syria since 1971, surviving the 2011 social movement which tried to overthrow their government and ultimately lead to a civil war. Iran supports the Al-Assad regime in the present civil war.


Iran has established around 13[4] military bases and five divisions of troops across Syria in addition to proxy groups. One of the most strategic military bases in Syria is the Iman Ali base located near the border with Iraq since it functions as a channel to move troops and supplies from Iraq to Syria and vice versa. This base has been targeted by the US forces multiple times.


Iran also has proxy groups located in Iraq. One of the most powerful Iran-backed paramilitary groups in Iraq is Kata'ib Hezbollah (not to be confused with the one in Lebanon).


These groups have attacked US military bases located in Syria and Iraq intensively in the last couple of weeks (more than 20 times) resulting in response from the US. Let’s keep in mind that this back-and-forth crisis led, in 2020, to the assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandison, commander of Kata'ib Hezbollah and the late Iranian Quds Force (division of the IRGG) leader Qassim Soleimani, the second most powerful figure in Iran at the time.


Yemen (Houthis)


Yemen’s populations are also mostly Sunni, however, there’s a region in the northwestern side whose population practices Zaydi (a form of Shiism). Zaydis used to rule Yemen until the Yemen Arab Republic was founded in 1962. Ever since, the Zaydis have not been able to restore their influence.


A portion of the Zaydis joined to create what’s called the Houthi Movement (or Houthis). This group came to prominence after the assassination of its leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, in 2004.


The Gulf countries, along with Israel and the US, argue that the Houthis are sponsored by Iran, and they act as proxy groups during the Yemeni Civil War which involves Saudi Arabia as well.


The Houthis have been launching drones and missiles targeting Israel in the ongoing conflict.


Since all four fronts are directly or indirectly, confronting Israel, lets us believe this is no longer a war between Hamas and Israel only but a possible proxy war between Israel and Iran. 



Iran has openly claimed that they’ll stand by “any group combating the Zionist regime”[5] confirming involvement in, both, the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel and the 2008-2009 conflict in Gaza. During the current Hamas-Israel conflict, Iran has warned Israel constantly about their continuous bombing over Gaza. However, a direct attack from Iran to Israel is very unlikely since it could prompt an US intervention, which would be self-defeating to Tehran. Nevertheless, Anthony Blinken is aware of Iran’s involvement and has warned Iran to not open another front against Israel.[6]


Acknowledging the military power Israel has in their arsenal, does Iran and their proxy groups believe that a victory is possible? Not in the battlefield, but in the narrative and political pressure this bloody warfare is turning into. The human shield strategy that Hamas and Hezbollah employ leaves no room for error for the Israel forces when firing their missiles.


This doesn’t seem to worry Israel since their blasts have killed more than 7,000 innocent people in Gaza since the beginning of the war. More children have been killed in Gaza in the last three weeks that the total killed from conflicts around the world in each of the last four years[7] in addition to cutting all supply lanes of water and electricity into the strip.


Circling back to the narrative and the political pressure that results from the conflict, we’ve seen many social movements that condemn the non-stop bombing by Israel on one of the most densely populated regions in the world. We’ve seen many world leaders condemn these attacks as well, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Colombian President Gustavo Petro, Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, most of the Arab countries, among others. Bolivia cut diplomatic ties with Israel (they were restored in 2019 after they were cut over previous attacks in Gaza) while Colombia, Jordan, and Chile (largest Palestinian population of the non-Arab countries) recalled their envoys.[8]


Unfortunately, some of these social movements are spearheaded by generalized chants against both the Muslim and Jewish communities that far from helping the cause, cause further unrest between the two communities. Let’s not forget that Israel is a state on its own, driven by politicians just like any other country in the world. As Mauricio Meschoulam mentions “criticizing the policies of the government that runs a given country during the period for which it was elected is something that happens all the time, for the purposes of Israel or any other state on the planet. That is neither anti-Semitism nor anti-Zionism.”[9]


This social and political pressure in favor of the lives of the Palestinian civilians coupled with the discomfort of the Israel people after the “vulnerability” perceived after the October 7th attacks, have placed Benjamin Netanyahu on the hot seat. The Economist recently published an article titled Netanyahu is the wrong man in the wrong place.[10]


However, he seems to be determined to keep bombing the strip, claiming that “there is a time for peace and a time for war” adding that “Israel will stand against the forces of barbarism until victory”.[11]Netanyahu learned from the 2006 Hezbollah’s “Divine Victory” and the various conflicts in Gaza, and will not stop until no trace remains from Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This will take time, and ultimately generate more pressure from the UN and the International Community in general, not only for Israel but for the US as well, eventually turning it into a ticking bomb.


The struggle within the UN already began after their director of the High Commission for Human Rights, Craig Mokhiber, stepped down after declaring that the current situation in Gaza is a “text-book case of genocide”.[12] Although it’s still not clear if he actually resigned or retired. This decision came two days after the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution “calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in Gaza”.[13]


The conflict and humanitarian crisis have profoundly shaken the whole world since October 7th, and it´s still unclear how all this will unfold. What’s clear is that peace talks are nowhere near, and the region and its civilians will still be under attacks for, at least, a couple of months. Nothing justifies the unbearable attacks on innocent civilians which ultimately are the least responsible and who usually will suffer the most for years to come.





Al Jazeera. (2023) More children’s deaths in Gaza in 3 weeks than annual total since 2019: NGO. Available at

Al Tahhan, Z. (2017) Hamas and Fatah: How are the two groups different? Al Jazeera. Available at

Ebrahim, N. (2023) Iran may not want a full-blown war with Israel, but it may be dragged into one. CNN News. Available at

The Economist. (2023) Bibi Netanyahu is the wrong man in the wrong place. The Economist. Available at

FirstPress. (2023) Bolivia cuts diplomatic ties with Israel; Colombia, Chile recall envoys over Gaza conflict.

The Guardian. (2023) Top UN official in New York steps down citing ‘genocide’ of Palestinian civilians. The Guardian. Available at

Ḥarūb. (2010). Hamas a beginner’s guide (2nd ed.). Pluto Press. P. 9.

Jamal, A, & Robbins, M. (2023) What Palestinians Really Think of Hamas. Foreign Affairs.

Mahmoudian, A. (2023) Hamas is Only One of Four Iranian Fronts Against Israel. Stimson. Available at

Meschoulam, M. (2023) Antisemitismo y Antisionismo. El Universal. Available at

Shahidsaless, S. (2023) Decoding Iran’s position on the Gaza war. Stimson. Available at

Times of Israel. (2023) Netanyahu dismisses calls for ceasefire, says that would be surrender to Hamas. Times of Israel. Available at

United Nations. (2023) UN General Assembly adopts Gaza resolution calling for immediate and sustained ‘humanitarian truce’. UN News. Available at



[1] Hroub, 2010.

[2] Al Tahhan, 2017.

[3] Jamal & Robbins, 2023.

[4] Mahmoudian. P. 2023

[5] Shahidsaless. 2023.

[6] Ebrahim. 2023

[7] Al Jazeera. 2023.

[8] FirstPress. 2023.

[9] Meschoulam. 2023

[10] The Economist. 2023.

[11] Times of Israel. 2023.

[12] The Guardian. 2023.

[13] United Nations. 2023.

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