The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) does not have any substantive evidence of Iran’s role in the devastating Hamas surprise attack that has killed more than 1,000 Israelis over the past four days, though suspicions continue to surround the Islamic Republic’s potential involvement.
“We have no evidence, no proof, no intelligence proof of Iranian involvement in this situation,” IDF Major Niv Dinar said in response to Newsweek‘s question during a virtual press briefing Tuesday.
“Even though we must say that nobody thinks—you have to be very naive in order to think—that someone in Iran woke up at 6:30 on Shabbat on Simchat Toah and was surprised seeing this,” he added.
Iranian officials have denied any connection to the attack, though they have praised the air, land and sea operation that struck Israel on Saturday, a Jewish holiday. U.S. officials have also said they had no indications that Iran had a direct hand in the unprecedented assault.
Earlier on Tuesday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hailed the “irreparable defeat” of Israel at the hands of Palestinian fighters, who fired thousands of rockets, stormed Israeli towns and cities by land and even conducted at least one naval landing, in Israel’s biggest security setback in decades. At least 150 Israelis were taken hostage, as well as yet unknown number of U.S. citizens.
Khamenei said that this was a Palestinian-led initiative, whose capabilities were “underestimated.”
“Of course, we praise the minds and efforts of the Palestinian youth and the resourceful and intelligent Palestinian designers and are proud of them,” Khamenei said, according to an official transcript.
During a press briefing Monday, White House National Security Council Strategic Communications Director John Kirby told reporters there was “no question that there’s a degree of complicity here” when it comes to Iran, “but Iran has been supporting Hamas for many, many years—tools, training, capabilities—certainly rhetorically but in more much more tangible ways than that.”
“That said,” he added, “we are looking through the information streams, we haven’t seen hard, tangible evidence that Iran was directly involved in participating in or resourcing and planning these sets of complex attacks that Hamas pulled off over the weekend.”
As Israel contends with lingering attacks, including reports of ongoing infiltration attempts, the IDF has begun a large-scale bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas and other Palestinian organizations such as Islamic Jihad are based. The Palestinian Health Ministry located in the effectively besieged enclave has reported on the deaths of at least 830 Palestinians so far.
The sudden eruption of violence is the latest in a decades-long history of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians with overlapping territorial claims, at the heart of which is the contested holy city of Jerusalem.
A statement issued by Hamas’s media office on Monday said the group would continue to defend all territory claimed by Palestinians.
“The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas has stressed that the Palestinian people and resistance will foil all malicious schemes orchestrated by the Israeli occupation to empty the occupied Palestinian territory of its indigenous Palestinian population,” the statement said.