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A prominent Iranian politician has characterized Israeli operations against Gaza as the third phase of Israel's current plot to destabilize the Middle East region.

Mohsen Rezai, a former Revolutionary Guards commander and current member of a state arbitrating body, said the first two phases of Israel's strategy were the civil wars provoked in Syria and Iraq. Rezai told a gathering in Tehran University on Wednesday that Israel had planned Salafist and Sunni attacks against the governments of Iraq and Syria.

Its attack on Gaza "is the third phase of a large operation" — and its aim, to "recover the morale it has lost over the last 10 years" and "fully exploit" the regional mayhem, IRNA reported.

In contrast with certain incendiary declarations of Iranian clerics and officials, Rezai did not accuse the West or particular states of backing international terrorism, but said certain, possibly Western states, were "unwittingly" conniving with Israel's plans.

Iran is currently discussing its nuclear program with the West in a process seen in recent months as a tentative and precarious rapprochement with the international community.

Rezai said "if the states accused of backing terrorism in Syria and Iraq do nothing against Israel, this is proof they are working with Israel." Arab states must force Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza he said, "otherwise they are all partners in this crime. Arab leaders ... should know that if they remain silent, the flames of this fire will engulf them."

On Thursday, as Israel continued to bomb Gaza to punish Hamas authorities for the recent killings of three Israeli teenagers, Hamas legislator Mushir al-Masri told Iran's official IRNA agency that there was "no talk of a ceasefire" for now and militants had yet to use up "all their capacities to resist" Israel.

Al-Masri told the agency in Gaza that there could not be talks of a ceasefire as long as Israelis were killing "families and especially children." He added, without specifying how, that the Israelis would soon pay for their actions. "The resistance has many capabilities to fight the Zionist enemy, which it has not yet used, and what it has done so far has amazed both friends and enemies."

— Ahmad Shayegan

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