On Monday, Israeli officials said they had no evidence that Iran was involved in the Hamas attack on southern Israel after a report from The Wall Street Journal claimed Iranian officials helped plot the operation.
“We have no evidence or proof” that Iran was involved, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Maj. Nir Dinar told POLITICO. Dinar left open the possibility that Tehran was linked to the attack, saying, “Just because you don’t have that evidence doesn’t necessarily mean Iran isn’t behind it.”
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, another IDF spokesman, made similar comments. “Iran is a major player, but we can’t yet say if it was involved in the planning or training,” Hagari said.
Iran and Hamas also denied Iranian involvement in the assault. “The accusations linked to an Iranian role… are based on political reasons,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani. He insisted that Iran does not intervene in the “decision-making of other countries, including Palestine.”
Ali Barakeh, a Hamas leader living in exile in Beirut, said only top Hamas military officials were aware of the plot before the attack was launched. “Only a handful of Hamas commanders knew about the zero hour,” he told AP.
The Wall Street Journal report claimed Iran gave Hamas the green light for the attack during a meeting in Beirut last week, but Barakeh said no one from the central command or the political bureau of Hamas was in the Lebanese capital last week. He acknowledged that Iran has previously aided Hamas but said since the 2014 Gaza war, the group has been manufacturing its own rockets and training its own fighters.
Barakeh said he was surprised that the attack, dubbed “Operation Al-Aqsa Storm,” did so much damage to Israel. “We were surprised by this great collapse,” he said. “We were planning to make some gains and take prisoners to exchange them. This army was a paper tiger.”
The Wall Street Journal claimed Iran started helping plot the attack in August, but according to AP, the operation had been planned for over a year. Barakeh denied speculation that it was launched to derail Israel-Saudi normalization talks and said it was a reaction to the various provocations from the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which came to power at the end of December 2022.