Gaza conflict and Iran-Israel tension

Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the region seems to be “on the brink” of war

Noureen Akhtar May 04, 2024
The writer is a PhD Scholar (SPIR-QAU) currently serving IPRI. She can be reached at


The escalation between Iran and Israel has set an important precedent, as the threshold between the two has been crossed to the point where both have resorted to exchange of direct attacks on each other’s sovereign territory.

Iran’s drone attack on April 13 came in response to the April 1 Israeli airstrikes at the Iranian consulate in Damascus. The Israeli attack killed 16 people, including two commanders of the Iranian ideological army, the IRGC. The attack was responded to by Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s ‘Honest Promise’ where he pleaded that it will ensure that Israel would be “Punished”.

On the night of Saturday, April 13, to Sunday, April 14, Iran launched 300 drones and missiles from its territory toward Israel. The Iranian mission to the UN, explaining its stance on X, said that Iran’s military action was conducted on the strength of Article 51 of the UN Charter pertaining to legitimate defence in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against diplomatic premises in Damascus. The act was done to conclude what Israel started unless Israel chose to commit “another mistake”. “However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe,” said Iran, also warning that the US must stay away from it.

Tensions rose even higher with Iran’s first direct attempt on Israel as the country’s military chief of staff said the country would respond to the Iranian attack.

Following the Iranian retaliation, the UNSC held an emergency meeting which called for defusing tensions. Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the region seems to be “on the brink” of war and “this is high time” that the tensions are resolved peacefully rather than going towards costly retaliation. American officials on the other hand played a vital role in thwarting the strike. President Joe Biden urged Israel to exercise caution after Iran’s attack and told Netanyahu that Washington would refrain from being part of any military support against Iran. India also reiterated “dialogue & diplomacy” to resolve the tension.

Here one needs to understand the historic dynamics between Iran and Israel. Iran does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and seeks its eradication. In fact, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has previously called Israel a “cancerous tumor” that “will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed”. On the other hand, Israel believes that Iran poses an existential threat as it has sworn to Israel’s destruction by funding and arming Palestinian resistance group Hamas and Lebanese group Hezbollah along with its “covert pursuit of nuclear weapons”.

The tensions between Israel and Iran have raised worries that violence rooted in the Gaza conflict is spreading throughout the region. Since the Gaza war erupted six months ago, Israel has been targeting Iran over its “funding and arming” of Hamas. In response to the retaliatory attack on its territory by Iran, Israel again launched an attack on Iran. However, it is perceived that the attack was not meant to cause civilian damage or to humiliate Iran but to satisfy Israeli military ambition without angering the US.

Some foreign policy hawks say these attacks and counter-attacks could be perceived as a grave provocation that demands some even more furious rejoinders for both sides, and this cycle of rejoinders would continue. Moreover, in the light of the latest developments, it is becoming increasingly evident that the tensions that were initially caused by Israel’s illegal attack on the Iranian embassy risk turning into a permanent conflict.

However, many still believe that Iran will not go for a costly direct confrontation with Israel and the exchange of hostilities will always be somehow contained since Iran has always preferred to engage in asymmetrical, indirect proxy wars with Israel rather than direct conflicts. But at the same time it also shifts the onus of responsibility on international peacekeepers to play their role to de-escalate the situation, stop both countries from doing into any further misadventure and call for immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2024.

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