A man carries a giant flag made of flags of Iran, Palestine, Syria and Hezbollah, during a ceremony marking the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, Feburary 2016.
(photo credit: RAHEB HOMAVANDI/REUTERS)
Iran is currently working on upgrading Hamas’s capabilities, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday.
“In recent days, while we face the known threat from Gaza, there is a direct Iranian intervention. Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas are involved in operative preparations to upgrade the threat to Israel from the direction of Gaza,” he stated.
Katz said that Iran increased its involvement after Hamas was forced to leave Qatar due to pressure from Saudi Arabia.
“This meeting is under the shadow of a four-letter word: I-R-A-N,” he quipped.
“It’s amazing how everything has to do with Iran,” Katz said, delineating ways in which Iran is consolidating its power in the region. “Whether it’s their nuclear aspirations and the need to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons... the attempt to improve its military preparedness in Syria, training Shi’ite militias [or] actions improving Hezbollah missiles.”
Minister Israel Katz at the 2017 Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, December 6, 2017.
“In a short time we will see ourselves fighting a much more challenging threat on the operative and military levels if we don’t change direction,” he warned.
As for the ongoing protests in Iran, Katz said that Israel is not involved in Iranian internal matters.
However, he added, “We want to see the repressive regime removed and replaced with a democracy. We don’t intervene, but we wish luck to the Iranian people in pursuit of freedom and democracy.”
Katz posited that if the protests bring about regime change, most of the Iranian threats to Israel will dissipate.
Pointing to internal disputes in Iran over whether the country should invest so much in attacking Israel and others in the region, he said: “It’s not that they love Zion, it’s a question of whether resources should be used to support terror and aggression in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. All these developments require Israel to consider them and try to change the situation.”
Katz said that he sees opportunities in shared interests between Israel, Saudi Arabia, some Sunni states and the US.
He also brought up his proposal to allow a seaport to be built on an island off the coast of Gaza.
“When we talk about Gaza, we need to separate civilian matters from security as much as possible, and remove Israeli responsibility for civilians in Gaza as much as possible, giving them an opening to the world with security supervision,” Katz stated.