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Iran makes its first military strikes linked to the Gaza war in Iraq and Syria

Iran launched ballistic missiles at what it termed “enemy sites” in northern Iraq and Syria on Monday. Its Revolutionary Guards said that they were targeting a Mossad base in northern Iraq and “anti-Iran terror groups” in Syria. The act spreads fear that there will be a wider escalation of conflict in the Middle East. 

Iran’s manoeuvre represents its first military strike in the region pertaining to the war in Gaza. Its Guards said that the strike was a response to Israeli “atrocities” against its military personnel since October 7. 

Iraq has recalled its ambassador in Tehran in retaliation and said that it will take legal steps against the strikes on its soil, which it perceives as a violation of sovereignty. It has also vowed to take Iran to the UN over the issue. 

Iran’s strike hit a residential area in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. At least four civilians were killed and six injured. Multimillionaire Kurdish businessman Peshraw Dizayee was among the dead, with several members of his family. They were killed in their home. 

Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Masrour Barzani deemed the attack a "crime against the Kurdish people”. Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, he also said that Iranian allegations of an Israeli “spy headquarters” there were baseless.

Israeli government officials are yet to comment. 

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani has said that the Iranian authority respects the sovereignty of Iraq but holds a "legitimate right to deter national security threats”.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard said that its further strikes in Syria were to destroy “the perpetrators of terrorist operations", including Islamic State. 

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in Iran earlier this month which killed just under 100 people at a memorial for the US assassinated Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad. Iran has insisted Israel played a hand in the attack despite Islamic State’s claim. Three members of Iran’s Guard were also killed in Syria recently when stationed there as military personnel. 

France has denounced Iran’s “blatant, unacceptable and worrying violations of Iraq’s sovereignty and an attack on its stability and security”. The US has also condemned the strikes on Iraq and Syria, terming them "reckless and imprecise”.

The spread of violence to another arena in the Middle East has raised fears that the conflict in Gaza may turn into a wider war. Other members of Iran’s "Axis of Resistance” have already carried out attacks on Israel and its allies in the name of solidarity with Palestine. These actors include Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels. 

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