Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace

Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace
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Palestinian newborn Anas Sbeta lies in an inewborn ncubator, after being evacuated from Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City due to the ongoing Israeli ground operation against Hamas, at a hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace
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A Palestinian mother holds her newborn Anas Sbeta, who was placed in an incubator after being evacuated from Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City due to the ongoing Israeli ground operation against Hamas, as he is discharged from a hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace
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A premature baby, who was evacuated from Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City due to the Israeli ground operation against Hamas, lies in an incubator at a hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 21, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 November 2023
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Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace

Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace
  • “I was losing hope to see my baby alive,” said Warda Sbeta in an interview
  • “I felt alive again, grateful to God that we now have our baby safely in our care”

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: At first, the young mother couldn’t find her newborn son, Anas, among the 31 tiny babies who had just arrived in southern Gaza after being evacuated from Gaza City’s devastated Al Shifa Hospital. She hadn’t seen him for 45 days.
“I was losing hope to see my baby alive,” said Warda Sbeta in an interview with Reuters TV on Tuesday.
She and her husband frantically checked the list of names provided by the head of the neonatal unit where the babies were being cared for, at a hospital in Rafah, and there it was, Anas’s name in black and white.
“I felt alive again, grateful to God that we now have our baby safely in our care,” said Sbeta, speaking at the hospital as she watched over her sleeping son, whom she had dressed in a light blue sleepsuit and matching hat.
Sbeta smiled as she held him in her hands and her husband helped her to wrap him in a white swaddling blanket with pink ribbons and a hood. Once he was bundled up, she cradled him against her chest.
Sbeta, 32, has seven older children and the family, whose home was in Gaza City before the war, are now living in a school in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, that has become a shelter for hundreds of people displaced from the north of the strip.
Sbeta was offered the option of being evacuated to Egypt with Anas so he could receive further medical care, but she did not want to leave her husband and her other children.
“I can’t leave them with only their father. He won’t be able to look after them. So I was obliged to refuse this offer,” she said.
Anas was one of only three out of the 31 premature babies rescued from Al Shifa who stayed behind in Gaza. Of the other two, one was unidentified, according to doctors at the Rafah hospital. They did not give information about the third baby.
When doctors at Al Shifa first raised the alarm nine days ago about the premature babies in their care, 39 of the infants were alive, but eight died because of the dire conditions before the evacuation to Rafah and Egypt could be organized.
A World Health Organization official said on Tuesday that two of the eight had died the night before the evacuation.

’IS HE ALIVE?’
Out of the 31 who were transported to Rafah on Sunday, 28 were evacuated to Egypt on Monday. UNICEF spokesman James Elder said on Tuesday that 20 of them were unaccompanied and eight were with their mothers. There were seven mothers as two of the infants were twins.
Elder said some of the 20 unaccompanied babies were orphans, while for others there was no information about their families. “It all underlines the horrific situation for families in Gaza,” he said.
For Anas, the safety of Egypt was out of reach, but the separation from his family was over.
Sbeta said that Anas was being treated at Al Shifa when war broke out on Oct. 7, the day when Hamas militants rampaged through southern Israel, killing 1,200 Israelis and kidnapping 240, according to Israeli figures.
Israel responded with a military assault on Gaza that has killed some 13,000 Palestinians, according to health officials in the Hamas-controlled enclave, and has made three quarters of the population homeless, according to UN data.
Like hundreds of thousands of others in the northern Gaza Strip, Sbeta and the rest of the family fled their home for southern Gaza, while Anas stayed behind at Al Shifa as the hospital gradually ran out of power, water, food and medicines.
“They called us from Al Shifa to come and take the baby but it was hard for us to return. The route out of Gaza City was open, but the way back was closed,” she said.
The anguish of separation worsened when Israeli forces last week entered Al Shifa, which Israel says has been used by Hamas as a base for its operations — an assertion denied by Hamas — and the family lost communication with the hospital.
“We completely lost any news about the baby. We were not able to know anything about him. Is he alive? Is he dead? Is someone giving him milk?” said Sbeta.
With communications patchy at the shelter in Khan Younis, the parents were struggling to get any solid information, until other displaced people living in the school told them they had heard the babies were being moved south.
The parents rushed to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, but were told they had to go to the maternity hospital in Rafah, where they were finally reunited with Anas.
On Tuesday, he was well enough to leave the hospital. His parents were taking him to the school in Khan Younis, their wartime refuge, to start a new life with his seven brothers and sisters.


UN urges release of detained Libyan journalist

Ahmed Sanussi. (Photo/Facebook)
Ahmed Sanussi. (Photo/Facebook)
Updated 16 sec ago
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UN urges release of detained Libyan journalist

Ahmed Sanussi. (Photo/Facebook)
  • Libya has been wracked by division and unrest since the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and remains divided between two rival administrations

TRIPOLI: The United Nations mission in Libya on Saturday called for the “immediate” release of a prominent journalist arrested this week, warning against a “crackdown” on media freedoms in the war-torn country.
Ahmed Sanussi, chief editor of Libyan financial news website Sada who has long covered corruption in the hydrocarbon-rich country, was arrested in his Tripoli home after returning from Tunisia, his family said.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it was “deeply concerned about the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalist Ahmed Sanussi on July 11 in Tripoli.”
In a message on social media platform X, UNSMIL called for his “immediate release.”
“The crackdown on journalism fosters a climate of fear and undermines the necessary environment for democratic transition in Libya,” it said.
Libya has been wracked by division and unrest since the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and remains divided between two rival administrations.
The UN mission highlighted the need for a “thriving civic space where Libyans can engage in open and safe debate and dialogue by exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
“All Libyan authorities must protect journalists and media professionals.”
Sanussi’s latest reporting on corruption implicated Economy Ministry Mohamad Ali Houej.
Authorities in Libya did not comment on the arrest, which was also condemned by Western governments.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) deemed it “unacceptable that authorities have not disclosed where he is being held or the reason for his arrest.”
The Netherlands’ ambassador in Libya, Joost Klarenbeek, said on X he was “deeply concerned,” adding that “any acts of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance or ill-treatment must be thoroughly investigated.”
CPJ’s MENA program coordinator, Yeganeh Rezaian, said Libyan “authorities must release Sanussi immediately and unconditionally and ensure his safe return home.”
 

 


Hezbollah fires rockets after Israeli strike on Lebanon

Hezbollah fires rockets after Israeli strike on Lebanon
Updated 8 min 53 sec ago
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Hezbollah fires rockets after Israeli strike on Lebanon

Hezbollah fires rockets after Israeli strike on Lebanon
  • Hezbollah had already launched multiple attacks against Israeli military positions along the border on Saturday

BEIRTU, Lebanon: Lebanon’s Hezbollah launched rockets at Israel on Saturday after an Israeli air strike that according to a Lebanese security source killed two civilians in the country’s south.
The Israeli military, whose forces have been trading regular cross-border fire with Hezbollah since early October, said its raid had targeted two operatives from the Iran-backed group.
The Shiite Muslim movement said it had retaliated by launching dozens of rockets at the border town of Kiryat Shmona, in Israel’s north.
The Israeli military said four soldiers were wounded including one “severely,” after air defenses intercepted most of the “approximately 15 launches... identified crossing from Lebanon.”
Israeli aircraft then “struck a Hezbollah field commander who was operating in the area of (Kfar) Tebnit in southern Lebanon,” the military added.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) reported multiple wounded in an Israeli drone strike on a vehicle near Kfar Tebnit.
Hezbollah had already launched multiple attacks against Israeli military positions along the border on Saturday.
The Lebanese security source, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said that “two civilians were filling up water from a roadside spring” in south Lebanon’s Deir Mimas area when they were killed in an “Israeli air strike.”
A source close to Hezbollah, also requesting anonymity, said one of the men was a member of the group and the father of a fighter who had been killed, while the second man was a member of Hezbollah ally the Amal movement.
The pair were “civilians, not fighters,” the source added.
The Israeli army said in a statement that “soldiers identified two Hezbollah terrorists preparing to launch projectiles toward Israeli territory in the area of Deir Mimas in southern Lebanon.”
“Shortly following the identification, the IAF (air force) struck the terrorists,” the statement added.
Hezbollah said it had launched rockets “in response to the aggressions by the Israeli enemy against the villages... and civilians in the south.”
Hezbollah has traded almost daily fire with Israeli forces in support of ally Hamas since the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel triggered war in the Gaza Strip.
The NNA said an “enemy drone” killed two men on Saturday in the same area, identifying one of them as a local council member for the Amal movement in the nearby village of Kfar Kila.
It said they were collecting water from the spring “to take it for livestock in Kfar Kila.”
The Amal movement released a statement saying one of its members, born in 1964, was killed.
In Lebanon, the cross-border violence since October has killed more than 500 people, mostly fighters but also including more than 90 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side, at least 29 people have been killed, the majority of them soldiers, according to the authorities.
The violence, largely restricted to the border area, has raised fears of all-out conflict between the foes, which last went to war in the summer of 2006.
 

 


Crucial farm jobs dry up in drought-stricken Morocco

Crucial farm jobs dry up in drought-stricken Morocco
Updated 25 min 23 sec ago
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Crucial farm jobs dry up in drought-stricken Morocco

Crucial farm jobs dry up in drought-stricken Morocco
  • The area is now about 2.5 million hectares compared to four million prior to the onset of severe water scarcity, according to figures given by Agriculture Minister Mohammed Sadiki

SIDI SLIMANE, Morocco: In a sun-baked village north of Morocco’s capital Rabat, Mustapha Loubaoui and other itinerant workers wait idly by the roadside for farm work made scarce by a six-year drought.
Loubaoui, 40, rode his combine harvester for 280 kilometers (175 miles) hoping to pick up work in what previously had been the booming agricultural village of Dar Bel Amri.
His day-long journey was for nothing. Now Loubaoui fears he will end up like the roughly 159,000 Moroccan agricultural workers who, official figures say, have lost their jobs since early last year.
“Work has become hard to come by because of drought,” Loubaoui told AFP.
Large areas of the Mediterranean have been under “alert drought conditions,” a phenomenon even more pronounced in Morocco and its neighbors Algeria and Tunisia, according to the European Drought Observatory’s latest analysis.
In Morocco, a lack of water threatens the viability of the important agriculture sector, which employs around a third of the working-age population and accounts for 14 percent of exports.
More than one third of Morocco’s total cultivated area lies unused because of drought.
The area is now about 2.5 million hectares compared to four million prior to the onset of severe water scarcity, according to figures given by Agriculture Minister Mohammed Sadiki.
And as the arable land shrank, so did employment.
The North African kingdom’s unemployment rates rose to a record 13.7 percent in the first quarter of 2024, said the High Planning Commission (HCP), the government’s statistical body.
It said 1.6 million of Morocco’s 37 million people are out of work and stressed that “the labor market continues to endure the effects of drought.”

Among the people behind the statistics is Chlih El Baghdadi, a farmer who lives near Dar Bel Amri.
His grain harvest suffered a major loss from drought, leaving him sitting at home rather than working his fields.
He and his five children now depend financially on his wife, who is employed at a larger farm near the city of Meknes, about 70 kilometers from their village.
Such operations, whose yield is mainly for export, have survived the drought because of their water-hungry irrigation systems employed under the “Green Morocco Plan” (PMV) launched in 2008.
Since then, agricultural revenues doubled from 63 billion dirhams to 125 billion dirhams ($12.5 billion) in 10 years, according to official data.
Another program, “Generation Green 2020-2030,” aims to enhance Morocco’s sustainable agriculture in light of climate challenges.
It targets a doubling of agricultural exports to reach 60 billion dirhams by 2030.
Yet despite the initiatives, climate change-driven unemployment has not eased.
“We have modern and sophisticated agriculture, but it only spans around 15 percent of cultivatable areas,” said Abderrahim Handouf, a researcher and agricultural engineer.
The “majority of farmers remain at the mercy of climate change” and other economic sectors are “not able to accommodate them,” he added.

The kingdom has striven to develop its industrial and service sectors over the past two decades, hoping to create more jobs, but these have not compensated for climate-linked unemployment.
Cars, for example, topped Morocco’s exports last year with a record value of more than 141 billion dirhams.
But the industry “only creates up to 90,000 jobs per year” while there are 300,000 job seekers, Moroccan industry minister Ryad Mezzour said in May.
“Employment is the weak spot of the economic system,” he said in a radio interview.
Facing criticism, Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch told parliament last month that “drought has become reality.”
He announced the expected creation of 140,000 new jobs as part of investment deals worth 241 billion dirhams in fields including renewable energy, telecommunication, tourism and health.
But the numbers were far from the million jobs he had promised to create by 2026.
For farmers like Benaissa Kaaouan, 66, it’s too late. He said he would have walked away from agriculture if he had learned another skill.
Now he stands in the middle of his zucchini fields in Dar Bel Amri, most of them sun-spoiled.
“There’s no life without rain,” Kaaouan said ruefully.
 

 


Gaza talks halted until Israel shows it’s serious about negotiations, say Egyptian sources

Gaza talks halted until Israel shows it’s serious about negotiations, say Egyptian sources
Updated 13 July 2024
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Gaza talks halted until Israel shows it’s serious about negotiations, say Egyptian sources

Gaza talks halted until Israel shows it’s serious about negotiations, say Egyptian sources
  • The sources said that the behavior of the Israeli mediators revealed “internal discord“

CAIRO: Gaza ceasefire talks have been halted after three days of intense negotiations failed to produce a viable outcome, two Egyptian security sources said on Saturday, blaming Israel for lacking a genuine intent to reach agreement.
The sources, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said that the behavior of the Israeli mediators revealed “internal discord.”
According to the sources, the Israeli delegation would give approvals on several conditions under discussion, but then come back with amendments or introduce new conditions that risked sinking the negotiations.
The sources said the mediators viewed the “contradictions, delays in responses, and the introduction of new terms contrary to what was previously agreed” as signs the Israeli side viewed the talks as a formality aimed at influencing public opinion.


Can Iran’s IRGC avenge serial deaths of commanders and cadres in Syria and Lebanon?

Can Iran’s IRGC avenge serial deaths of commanders and cadres in Syria and Lebanon?
Updated 14 July 2024
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Can Iran’s IRGC avenge serial deaths of commanders and cadres in Syria and Lebanon?

Can Iran’s IRGC avenge serial deaths of commanders and cadres in Syria and Lebanon?
  • Experts divided on Tehran’s capacity for retaliation against suspected targeted killings by Israel
  • Prospect of all-out war in southern Lebanon compounds problems for Iran’s military leadership

LONDON: In one of his first statements since winning the runoff election earlier this month, Iran’s President-elect Masoud Pezeshkian indicated that militant groups across the Middle East would not allow Israel’s “criminal policies” toward the Palestinians to continue.

In a message on July 8 to Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group, he said: “The Islamic Republic has always supported the resistance of the people of the region against the illegitimate Zionist regime.”

So far, however, Iran’s losses appear to outweigh greatly the cost it has been able to impose on the country suspected of inflicting them.

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him (R) and Iran's newly elected President Masoud Pezeshkian attending a mourning ritual in Tehran late on July 12, 2024. (AFP)

Two months after Israel and Iran appeared to be on the brink of all-out war, a suspected Israeli airstrike near Syria’s northern city of Aleppo in June dealt another blow to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Saeed Abyar, who was in Syria on an “advisory mission,” according to a statement issued by the IRGC, died in an attack on June 3, bringing the total number of key IRGC figures killed in suspected Israeli strikes since Oct. 7 last year to 19.

Damascus accused Israel of orchestrating the strikes from the southeast of Aleppo. Israel, however, rarely comments on individual attacks.

 

 

It came just days after Israel launched air attacks on Syria’s central region as well as the coastal city of Baniyas on May 29, killing a child and injuring 10 civilians, according to Syrian state media.

“A closer look at the June 3 incident reveals that Israel targeted a copper factory and a weapons warehouse on the outskirts of Aleppo, attacking multiple times,” Francesco Schiavi, an Italy-based geopolitical analyst, told Arab News.

“In these confusing conditions, General Abyar was among several individuals near the impact site, making his death more likely an indirect consequence of an operation against Iranian infrastructure in Syria rather than an intended target of the Israeli attack, generally conducted with high-precision weapons.”

INNUMBERS

19 Officers of IRGC’s Quds Force branch killed in suspected Israeli strikes since Oct. 7, 2023.

8 IRGC officers killed in single strike on Iran’s embassy annex in Damascus on April 1.

Although Israel is accused of targeting numerous Iranian commanders and cadres on Syrian soil in the past nine months, the June 3 attack was the first to kill an IRGC commander since the April 1 strike on Iran’s embassy annex in Damascus.

That suspected Israeli strike eliminated eight IRGC officers, including Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the highest-ranking commander of the extraterritorial Quds Force to be killed since Qassem Soleimani died in a US drone strike in 2020.

Rescue workers search in the rubble of a building annexed to the Iranian embassy a day after an air strike in Damascus on April 2, 2024. (AFP)

Iran launched a massive retaliatory attack against Israel on April 13 — its first direct assault on Israeli territory, stoking fears of an all-out, region-wide conflict. The following day, IRGC chief Hossein Salami said his country “decided to create a new equation.”

“From now on, if Israel attacks Iranian interests, figures, and citizens anywhere, we will retaliate from Iran,” he said.

Observers, unsure how Iran might respond this time, remain on edge, especially as tensions mount in southern Lebanon, the stronghold of the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia, which has been trading cross-border fire with Israel since Oct. 8 last year.

“Tehran warned that a ‘new equation’ had been established whereby Iran would retaliate against any Israeli attacks on its interests in the region,” said Schiavi.

Smoke from Israeli bombardment billows in Kfarkila in southern Lebanon on July 12, 2024 amid ongoing cross-border tensions between Israel and Hezbollah. (AFP)

“The lack of precedents makes it challenging to predict what this renewed Iranian approach might entail in practical terms.”

As it has officially accused Israel of killing Abyar, Eva J. Koulouriotis, a political analyst specializing in the Middle East, believes the IRGC will now be “forced to respond” to the June 3 attack in order to bolster its deterrence — potentially setting off a new round of escalation.

“I understand that by this announcement and the threat to respond, Iran does not want the Israel Defense Forces to return to the equation before targeting the Iranian consulate in Syria,” when similar attacks had gone “unpunished,” Koulouriotis told Arab News.

Eldar Mamedov, a Brussels-based expert on the Middle East and Iran, believes the Israeli strike on the Iranian embassy annex in Damascus had “changed the deterrence equation to Tehran’s detriment.”

An Iranian ballistic missile lies on the shores of the Dead Sea after Iran launched drones and missiles toward Israel on April 13, 2024. (Reuters/File)

“Tehran was compelled to retaliate, but even then did so with caution — by forewarning Israel and the US through neighboring countries,” he told Arab News. “The aim was to send a message that Iran would not hesitate to strike Israel directly if it kept killing senior Iranian figures, in order to re-establish the deterrence.”

Mamedov added: “To understand what scenarios could prompt Iran to retaliate against Israel for the elimination of IRGC officers in Syria and Lebanon, we need to take into account the overall context of Iranian presence there.

“It is primarily about the ‘forward defense’ strategy through allies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and proxy groups in Syria, the aim of which is to deter Israel from attacking Iran and its nuclear installations directly.”

Mourners join a funeral procession on July 10, 2024, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, for senior Hezbollah commander Yasser Nemr Qranbish, who was killed a day earlier in an Israeli airstrike that hit his car in Syria near the border with Lebanon. Qranbish was a former personal bodyguard of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, an official with the Lebanese militant group said. (AP)

Nevertheless, Mamedov believes Iran “is willing to avoid an all-out war with Israel and/or the US.”

The death of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on May 19, along with the foreign minister and other senior officials, forced Tehran to bring forward its presidential elections, which had not been due until 2025.

“As Iran is immersed in preparing the ground for an inevitable leadership transition, it is wary of further regional destabilization,” said Mamedov. “I do not think that this fundamental calculus has changed.”

Schiavi concurred, saying that Iran’s current “domestic leadership crisis” means the government is now preoccupied with the leadership transition, making a fresh round of retaliatory action unlikely.

He noted Iran’s “longstanding blend of pragmatism and assertiveness in responding to regional developments,” citing “the carefully measured direct attack on Israel on April 13, which was intended to avoid plunging the two countries into open confrontation.”

Schiavi added: “Despite Tehran’s continued adherence to its strategy of supporting the pro-Iranian axis and maintaining continuity in its regional policy despite sudden political upheaval, the current circumstances make a new wave of attacks on Israel highly unlikely.”

For his part, Mamedov believes Iran will likely “be forced to abandon its caution if tensions between Israel and Hezbollah were to escalate into an open war.”

“Hezbollah is considered by Iran the most capable and effective of its allies in the Levant, with a degree of operational cooperation and ideological alignment that is not met in Tehran’s relations with other allies/proxies,” he said.

“A severely weakened Hezbollah would undermine a vital pillar of Tehran’s ‘forward defense’ strategy, and it is to be expected that it will give its support to the Lebanese group in case of an open war with Israel. However, that depends on how Hezbollah will perform in such a war.”


 

ALSO READ: Iran and Israel: From allies to deadly enemies

 

 


The past month has been particularly tense on the Lebanese border, intensifying fears of an all-out war that would send shockwaves throughout the wider region.

On June 11, an Israeli airstrike on the Lebanese village of Jouya killed a senior Hezbollah commander, Taleb Abdullah, and three fighters. A week later, Iran’s mission to the UN warned Israel about the consequences of going to war with its ally in Lebanon.

A Hezbollah leader speaks in Beirut's southern suburbs on June 12, 2024, during the funeral of Taleb Abdallah, known as Abu Taleb, a senior field commander of Hezbollah who was killed in an Israel strike, on June 1 at a location near the border in southern Lebanon. (AFP)

A little over two weeks later, on June 27, Hezbollah fired dozens of Katyusha rockets at a military base in northern Israel. The group’s leadership said the attack came “in response to the enemy attacks that targeted the city of Nabatieh and the village of Sohmor.”

Until Israel and Hamas reach a deal on a ceasefire in Gaza, Koulouriotis said, “the dangerous escalation on the Lebanese-Israeli border” is an indicator that “we are closer than ever to war.”

“Tehran is directly concerned in light of any escalation that Hezbollah faces in Lebanon,” she said. “That is why I believe that Iran wants to keep the response card to the killing of its officer in Aleppo to be used during any Israeli military operation in southern Lebanon.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Noting that officials in Iran are well aware of the US and Europe’s “great fear” of a large-scale escalation in the Middle East, she said “any Iranian military move will put greater pressure on the West, pushing them to restrain Benjamin Netanyahu’s government” in Israel.

Charles Q. Brown, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, recently warned Israel that any offensive in Lebanon could spark a regional war involving Iran and its allies.

Considering current developments on the Lebanon-Israel border, Koulouriotis expects Iran’s response to Israel’s latest attack to be similar to its reaction to the embassy annex attack — “through swarms of drones and cruise missiles.”

“However, if Western diplomatic moves lead to reducing tension on the Lebanese-Israeli border, Iran may resort to a less severe response, and Iraqi Kurdistan may be a suitable place for an Iranian response,” she said

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Pool/AFP)

Schiavi, however, dismisses the idea that Iran “intended to retaliate against every attack on an Iranian target in Syria (or elsewhere) with a direct attack on Israel, especially given the potential accidental nature of General Abyar’s death.”

“The ramifications of the Gaza war highlight the centrality of Syria in Tehran’s Middle East strategy, and this means that Iran will remain committed to maintaining considerable influence in the country for the foreseeable future,” he said.

“Should the conflict escalate further, or should Israel launch a broader assault on other Iranian assets or personnel in Syria, Tehran may feel compelled to respond forcefully, risking the very conflict it seeks to avoid.”

For now, the general consensus is that the actions of the IRGC will be more important than the harsh words of President-elect Pezeshkian or any other regime official in judging Iran’s willingness or ability to challenge Israel militarily.