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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