Iran executes four people on charges of spying for Israel

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Iran hanged three men and a woman on Friday on charges of collaborating with Israeli intelligence services, as regional tensions escalate against the backdrop of the war between Israel and Hamas.

The Iranian judiciary's Mizan news agency said the executed people were accused of “waging war” against the Islamic Republic and had “received direct instructions from Mossad spy officers.”

The executions come after an air strike on a suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Monday, killing prominent Iranian commander Razi Mousavi. Iranian officials, who said the slain activist was an “adviser” in the Arab country, blamed Israel for the assassination and said they reserved the right to respond in kind.

Israel and Iran have been engaged in an increasingly public shadow war across the Middle East over the past decade. Syria, where Iranian forces intervened to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the country's civil war, has emerged as an ongoing battleground. Syrian state media reported late Thursday that Damascus International Airport was subjected to alleged Israeli air strikes, after it recently resumed operations following previous attacks.

Israeli officials usually refrain from claiming responsibility for operations against Iranian assets, but Naftali Bennett, who served as prime minister in 2021 and 2022, said in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Friday that the Jewish state had struck a drone base and assassinated an Israeli soldier. . A senior military commander on Iranian soil in early 2022, under his government.

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“The Iranian regime is at the heart of most of the Middle East’s problems and much of global terrorism. And yet, inexplicably, almost no one touches it,” Bennett wrote, calling on the United States and other international actors to take tougher action against Tehran.

Iran has long supported Hamas in Gaza, and supports militant groups across the region that have launched attacks against Israel and US forces in the region since the Palestinian movement launched its attack on the Jewish state on October 7. Its most powerful proxy, Hezbollah, the Lebanese armed group, has been exchanging fire daily with Israeli forces across Lebanon's border with Israel, raising fears that the war in Gaza could lead to a wider conflagration.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebel group in Yemen has launched drones and ballistic missiles at Israel since the outbreak of hostilities in Gaza. It has also targeted commercial ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since mid-November.

The United States earlier this month formed an international maritime task force to counter Houthi attacks, amid concerns about major disruptions to global trade as ships shift around the Horn of Africa.

The US Army Central Command said that its forces in the southern Red Sea had intercepted 13 attack drones and six missiles launched by the Houthis at ships in the region since Tuesday. The United States also announced on December 25 that it had bombed three facilities in Iraq used by Iranian-backed militias, after a drone strike on a US military base earlier in the day seriously injured a US service member.

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Iran has denied any involvement in the deadly attack carried out by Hamas on October 7, a claim supported by Western officials. A Hamas attack on southern Israel killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities, and led to a retaliatory attack on Gaza that killed more than 21,100 people, according to Palestinian health officials.

Tehran also insists that any operations by its proxy forces in the region, including Hezbollah and the Houthis, are planned on its own, a claim Israel rejects.

On Tuesday, Yoav Galant, Israel's defense minister, told a parliamentary committee that Israel was under attack in a “multi-arena war” from seven areas, which he identified as Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. .

He added: “We have already responded and acted in six of these areas, and I say here in the clearest way – anyone working against us is a potential target, and there is no immunity for anyone.”

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