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Iranian Official: Gaza Is Part Of Three-Way Israeli Plot

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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Why Crimea Is Proving So Hard For Russia To Defend

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on the occupied Crimean peninsula, claiming Monday that a missile Friday killed the head of Russia's Black Sea fleet at the headquarters in Sevastopol. And Russia is doing all within its power to deny how vulnerable it has become.

Photograph of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in smoke after a Ukrainian missile strike.​

September 22, 2023, Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia: Smoke rises over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters after a Ukrainian missile strike.

Kyrylo Danylchenko

Russian authorities are making a concerted effort to downplay and even deny the recent missile strikes in Russia-occupied Crimea.

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Media coverage in Russia of these events has been intentionally subdued, with top military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov offering no response to an attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, or the alleged downing last week of Russian Su-24 aircraft by Ukrainian Air Defense.

The response from this and other strikes on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding waters of the Black Sea has alternated between complete silence and propagating falsehoods. One notable example of the latter was the claim that the Russian headquarters building of the Black Sea fleet that was hit Friday was empty and that the multiple explosions were mere routine training exercises.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that the attack killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. "After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored," the Ukrainian special forces said via Telegram on Monday.

Responding to reports of multiple missiles strikes this month on Crimea, Russian authorities say that all the missiles were intercepted by a submarine and a structure called "VDK Minsk", which itself was severely damaged following a Ukrainian airstrike on Sept. 13. The Russians likewise dismissed reports of a fire at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, attributing it to a mundane explosion caused by swamp gas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refrained from commenting on the military situation in Crimea and elsewhere, continuing to repeat that everything is “proceeding as planned.”

Why is Crimea such a touchy topic? And why is it proving to be so hard to defend?

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