While its allies up their criticism, Israel ups the ante

Israel’s killing of aid workers in Gaza repulsed even its friends, but the Israeli targeting of senior Iranian commanders in a consulate in Damascus suggests that Gaza is not their only target.

While its allies up their criticism, Israel ups the ante

Despite the global condemnation Israel’s handling of the Gaza conflict is receiving from world leaders, the Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus shows that the Israelis’ ultimate war aims lie far beyond the confines of the Gaza Strip.

The killing of seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen in an Israeli drone strike as they were delivering aid to starving Palestinians has prompted a furious backlash.

British, Polish, Australian, Palestinian, and a dual US-Canadian citizen were killed. The IDF has promised an independent investigation into the incident. Israeli President Isaac Herzog has apologised for the deaths.

The United Nations says more than 180 humanitarian aid workers have been killed in Gaza since hostilities commenced nearly six months ago, so the latest deaths have prompted world leaders to unite in demanding that the Israeli military undertakes a full review of its handling of humanitarian aid.

Friends’ fury

US President Joe Biden responded to Monday’s attack by saying he was “outraged and heartbroken” over the deaths.

He also accused the Israelis of not doing enough to protect aid workers operating in Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians are facing starvation.

Biden called for Israel's investigation to be swift and said it "must bring accountability", with its findings made public, while other world leaders have been equally critical.

Australian premier Anthony Albanese said Israel’s explanation for the killing of seven aid workers, which the Israeli military says was “unintentional”, was “not good enough”.

The killing of seven aid workers in an Israeli drone strike as they were delivering aid to starving Palestinians has prompted a furious backlash.

Albanese said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remark that innocent people get killed in war was unacceptable.

"We need to have accountability for how it has occurred, and what is not good enough is the statements that have been made, including that this is just a product of war," Albanese said during a news conference in Sydney.

"This is against humanitarian law – international humanitarian law makes it very clear that aid workers should be able to provide that aid and that assistance free of the threat of losing their life."

The condemnation of the Israeli military's role in the killings has raised the possibility that Israel might be forced to reconsider the uncompromising approach it has adopted to prosecuting its military offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

Looking north

Pressure on the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may cause the Israel Defence Forces to revise their rules of engagement.

However, the Israeli missile attack against the Iranian Consulate in Damascus suggests that the Israelis are more interested in expanding their military operations, not reducing them.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard officials said seven of its officers were killed in the Israeli air strike.

They include Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander of the elite Quds Force, and Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hadi Haji-Rahimi, his deputy.

Although part of the Iranian Embassy complex in Damascus, the consulate is also known as a key base used by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps to conduct their military operations in the area, especially maintaining Tehran's support for Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

The Israeli attack on the consulate, moreover, comes against a background of rising tensions between Iran and Israel, which has resulted in increased Israeli military activity against Iranian targets in Syria and Lebanon in recent months.

The upsurge in Israeli attacks against Iranian targets in the region suggests that the Israelis have no intention of merely confining the military offensive launched in the wake of the 7 October attacks to Gaza.


While the Iranians have given their tacit backing to Hamas in its war against Israel, Tehran has so far taken care not to become involved in a direct confrontation with the Israelis.

They have instead encouraged groups they back, such as Yemen's Houthis and Lebanon's Hezbollah, to conduct operations in support of Hamas.

This has resulted in the Houthis launching a series of attacks against merchant shipping in the Red Sea, causing widespread disruption to international shipping.

Hezbollah, meanwhile, has conducted a series of limited attacks against northern Israel aimed at destabilising Israel's northern border while at the same time avoiding a major military confrontation with the Israelis.

The upsurge in Israeli attacks against Iranian targets suggests that they have no intention of merely confining their offensive to Gaza.

While Tehran's reliance on proxies serves its overall objective of not provoking a major conflict with Israel, it has also led Israel to believe that it can act with impunity against Iranian targets, safe in the knowledge that Iran will not respond.

The Israelis believe they are justified in expanding their military operations to include Iranian targets because of the severe impact Iran's activities have on Israel.

While Hezbollah's attacks against Israel have so far been limited in scope, they have nevertheless succeeded in forcing significant numbers of Israelis to abandon their homes in northern Israel, leaving many Israeli towns and villages there deserted.

Even so, attacking high profile targets such as the Iranian consulate in Damascus will be regarded as a major act of provocation by Tehran, one that demands retaliation.

Both Iran and Hezbollah have vowed to respond to the attack, with Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi warning that the strike on the Syrian capital "would not go unpunished".

The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is half a year old. With Israel clearly determined to expand its military operations to other parts of the Middle East, there is a distinct possibility that a far larger regional conflict has only just begun.

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