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Hamas attack surprised some Iranian leaders, says US source, citing initial intelligence

WASHINGTON – Iran likely knew that Palestinian Hamas militants were planning “operations against Israel” but initial US intelligence reports show that some Iranian leaders were surprised by the Islamist group’s unprecedented attack from Gaza, US sources said on Wednesday.

Those Iranian officials would ordinarily have been informed about such a massive operation by Hamas, which Teheran has long supported with weapons and funds, according to a person familiar with the intelligence.

A US official said, however, that Iran, Israel’s regional arch-foe, had likely been aware that Hamas was planning to take action against Israel “but without the precise timing or scope of what occurred” last weekend.

White House spokesman John Kirby reiterated on Wednesday in an MSNBC interview that Iran was complicit because of its longtime ties to Hamas but “we haven’t seen anything that cites specific support to this specific set of attacks.”

Iran lauded the multi-pronged assault that the militants carried out from Gaza on Saturday, killing more than a thousand Israelis and abducting dozens more, but has denied any involvement.

The New York Times was the first to report that the US had collected multiple pieces of intelligence showing that key Iranian leaders did not know the attack was coming and were caught by surprise.

The source familiar with the intelligence told Reuters that US intelligence agencies were still digging for any evidence of Iranian involvement as well as reviewing older intelligence for clues.

The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the investigation was ongoing and it was “premature to draw any final conclusion.”

“We will be looking at additional intelligence in the coming weeks to inform our thinking on this issue, including whether there were at least some within their system that either had a clearer sense of what was coming or even contributed to aspects of the planning,” the official said.

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In Brussels on Wednesday, General CQ Brown, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US military had yet to see any sign that other Israeli adversaries were preparing to move against Israel following the Hamas attack. He had earlier warned Iran not to get involved in the crisis.

Some outside analysts have said Iran could be emboldened to step up its long-running “shadow war” with Israel after seeing a militant raid pierce the Israeli military’s reputation of invincibility, and use its regional proxies to target US interests in the region.

Israeli forces continued to pound Hamas-ruled Gaza on Wednesday seeking to root out militants and deployed forces north of the densely populated Palestinian enclave for a possible ground offensive.

Israel’s death toll rose to 1,200 with over 2,700 wounded, its military said, from the militants’ hours-long rampage after breaching the border fence enclosing Gaza on Saturday.

Retaliatory Israeli strikes have killed 1,055 people and wounded more than 5,100, Gaza’s Hamas authorities said. REUTERS

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