Iran is smuggling weapons to the occupied West Bank in an apparent attempt to foment unrest as part of its ongoing shadow war with Israel, according to US intelligence officials.

Iran has been operating smuggling routes across the Middle East with the help of intelligence operatives, militants and criminal gangs to bring weapons to the West Bank, several security officials from the United States, Israel and Iran told the New York Times on Tuesday.

The Iranian officials who request anonymity said Tehran wants to flood the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories with weapons to foment potential unrest against Israel.

Reports about Iran’s ongoing smuggling efforts were highlighted by an academic study last year that noted a noticeable uptick in weapons and drugs smuggling into the West Bank via Jordan and Egypt.

The long-simmering conflict between Israel and Iran broke to the surface earlier this year as Israel started targeting not only Iranian proxies but also Iranian personnel and assets across the Middle East, mostly recently, assassinating a top Iranian general in Damascus, Syria.
Smuggling began two years ago

Security officials told the New York Times the smuggling began about two years ago as weapons flooded the routes previously used to smuggle drugs and other contraband.

Officials believe Iran is using two main routes to the West Bank, via Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. The complex clandestine network is believed to use a complex web of militants, organised crime gangs and Bedouin smugglers who reportedly smuggle weapons from Jordan into Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces are reportedly preparing to strike Iranian nuclear facilities if Tehran launches an attack in retaliation for the assassination of a top general last week.

Israel has held air force drills in recent days and is eyeing vital Iranian infrastructure, including nuclear sites, the London-based media outlet Elaph News reported, citing an unnamed Western security official.

Israelis have been on tenterhooks since late last week when a high-precision Israeli airstrike killed a top general with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and other senior officers at the Iranian consulate in Damascus.

Mohammad Reza Zahedi has been described as Iran’s most important general to have been assassinated since the 2020 US airstrike that killed Qassim Soleimani.

Iran has vowed to retaliate for the killing, sparking fears of a major escalation and even an all-out war between Israel and Iran.
Plea not to panic buy

An IDF spokesman last Friday pleaded with the Israeli public not to panic-buy supplies and power generators as Western intelligence sources said a major airstrike on Israel was imminent within 48 hours.

Debunking previous reports of an imminent attack, unnamed US officials quoted by CNN on Tuesday said their intelligence shows that Iran is unlikely to strike Israel directly, fearing broad repercussions of a global conflict.

Iran is now believed to be mulling over a response that would involve one of its proxies such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah or Yemen’s Houthis.

Early on Tuesday, Israeli forces launched a series of strikes on Syrian army posts in Syria’s south, the IDF said.

That came in response to Syrian rocket fire on Israel-occupied Golan Heights in the north.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Pledge to strike Iran

Separately, Israel’s foreign minister in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Tuesday pledged to strike Iran if Israel comes under attack.

“If Iran attacks us directly, we will attack Iran,” said Israel Katz.

“And if it’s the militias allied with Iran that do it, as a reprisal for the destruction of the (Iranian) consulate in Damascus, we will attack them as well.”

Israel has indicated it is not interested in a major confrontation with Hezbollah despite the Iran-backed terrorist group hitting northern Israel with rockets almost daily since the start of the war in Gaza.

Asked about a possible response to a major Hezbollah attack, Mr Katz indicated that Israel would consider sending troops to Lebanon:

“If missiles start hitting Tel Aviv from Lebanon as a reprisal for Damascus, Israel will send military aircraft and troops.”

In Iran, a senior commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps issued a veiled threat against the United Arab Emirates for accommodating Israeli interests.

Alireza Tangsiri, an IRGC navy commander, told Iran’s semi-official Student News Agency on Tuesday that Israelis come to the UAE “not for economic purposes but rather for security and military work”, which, he said, presents a threat to Iran.

The UAE in 2020 became the first Gulf country to normalise relations with Israel in a landmark deal brokered by the United States.

Source » yahoo