US says Israel not behind Iran blast, warns against escalation

AFP , Wednesday 3 Jan 2024

The United States on Wednesday rejected any suggestion that it or ally Israel was behind deadly blasts in Iran and warned against further escalation after a suspected Israeli attack on a Hamas leader in Lebanon.

People gather at the site of an explosion in the city of Kerman, about 510 miles (820 kilometres) southeast of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. Two bombs exploded Wednesday at a commemoration for a prominent Iranian general slain by the U.S. in a 2020 drone strike, Iranian officials said, as the Middle East remains on edge over Israel s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. AP


At least 103 people died in southern Iran at the grave of Revolutionary Guards General Qasem Soleimani, as mourners gathered exactly four years after he was killed in a US drone strike.

"The United States was not involved in any way, and any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said of Wednesday's violence.

"We have no reason to believe that Israel was involved in this explosion," he said.

"We do express our sympathies to the victims and their loved ones who died in this horrific explosion," he said.

The blast on the anniversary of Soleimani's assassination comes one day after a suspected Israeli attack killed the number two leader of Hamas, Saleh al-Aruri, in the southern suburbs of Lebanon's capital Beirut that are a stronghold of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

Without explicitly confirming Israeli responsibility or backing the strike, Miller said that Aruri was a "brutal terrorist with civilian blood on his hands."

But he warned against further escalation in the region.

"It is in no one's interest -- not in the interest of any country in the region, not in the interest of any country in the world -- to see this conflict escalated any further than it already is," he said.

Miller declined to assess who attacked Iran.

Soleimani, who headed an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards, was also a staunch enemy of the Islamic State group, a Sunni extremist movement that has carried out attacks in majority-Shiite Iran.

Soleimani was killed four years ago at the Baghdad airport in a strike ordered by then-president Donald Trump following attacks on US forces in the country by Shiite militias linked to Iran.

Iran backs Hamas, the Islamist movement.

Hamas fighters infiltrated Israel on 7 October, killing around 1,140 people, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel launched a relentless offensive that has reduced vast swathes of Gaza to rubble and claimed over 22,300 lives, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the health ministry in the territory.

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