Members of the so-called “Axis of Resistance” have described their thresholds for intervening in the war between Israel and Hamas, amid concerns that the conflict could spread.
The red lines stated by the informal anti-Israel, anti-Western and anti-Saudi alliance between Iran and regional militant groups come as Israeli strikes on Gaza continue.
On October 7, Hamas led the deadliest-ever Palestinian militant attack on Israel, which subsequently launched its heaviest-ever airstrikes on Gaza. As of Thursday, more than 1,200 people had been killed in Israel, the Associated Press reported, citing the Israeli military. At least 1,200 people had been killed in Gaza, according to authorities there, the AP said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is “at war” and has cut off supplies of food, fuel, electricity and medicine into Gaza. Israel has called up 360,000 army reservists.
The leadership of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Ashab al-Kahf, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah, and the Badr Organization said they would strike U.S. targets if there were any intervention by Washington in the war, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported.
The threshold for Lebanese Hezbollah, a key backer of Hamas, would be if Israel conducts a ground operation into Gaza, on whose border Israeli reservists are gathered ahead of an expected incursion into the enclave.
U.S. involvement in the war would also be a red line for Yemen’s Houthi movement, while Iran will intervene if Israel attacks the Islamic State, the Washington, D.C.-based think tank said.
An Iranian foreign affairs ministry official said on October 9 that Tehran would deliver a “devastating response” if Israel hit Iranian territory.
When contacted for comment, the U.S. State Department told Newsweek in a statement, “We are aware of these comments and will take all measures necessary to protect our citizens and our interests.”
It said that the U.S. has pushed a “strong message of deterrence to any country or any party that might seek to take advantage of the situation to widen this war” and was “pursuing intensive diplomacy” in the region “to prevent the conflict from spreading.”
President Joe Biden has pledged to provide military support for Israel to fight Hamas. The U.S. has also moved aircraft carrier the USS Gerald R. Ford to the eastern Mediterranean although the White House said there is no plan to send troops.
Politico reported that the Pentagon is concerned about the potential for attacks on American troops already stationed in the Middle East from Iran and its proxy forces.
U.S. forces in the Middle East are “aware of malign actors who may seek to capitalize on conflicts and instability in the region,” said Maj. Geoffrey Carmichael, the spokesperson for the American military operation to counter ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
A report by security intelligence firm Global Guardian this week said that for Hamas the war was a “last-ditch effort to unify the Palestinian people and galvanize Pan-Arabist sentiment that died when Egypt and Israel signed a peace accord in 1979.”
It said that the “stakes are high, and the incentives are in place for Israel, Hamas, and Iran—and its various regional auxiliaries—to permanently alter the current strategic balance.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Thursday and will meet Israeli officials and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank and is a political rival to Hamas.
Update 10/12/23 4:38 p.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from U.S. State Department.