Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has implicitly defended the killing of civilians in southern Israel by the Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
In a speech on October 17, Khamenei sought to water down the atrocities committed by Hamas, saying that “those who are in the settlements are not civilians; they are all armed.”
"Even assuming that they are civilians, the question remains: How many of them have been killed? The usurping regime kills a hundred times more women, children, the elderly, and the young in densely populated buildings in Gaza," he also said.
On October 7, Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel and killed over 1,400 people and kidnapped about 200 hostages to the Gaza Strip, including women and children. Over 260 people of those killed were participating in an electronic music festival.
The Israeli military responded to the assault by hitting Gaza with massive air and artillery strikes aimed at dismantling the militant group, killing over 2,700 Palestinians.
Israel has told all 1.1 million Palestinians in north Gaza to leave and relocate to the south.
Iranian officials have warned that a ground invasion of Gaza would be met with a response from other fronts, prompting fears of a wider conflict that could draw in other countries.
"We are preparing for the next stages of war. We haven't said what they will be," Israeli army’s international spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said on October 17. "Everybody's talking about the ground offensive. It might be something different."
In his speech, Khamenei said that Israeli bombardments in Gaza “must stop immediately.”
He also said that no one will be able to stop Muslims around the world and resistance forces if Israel's “crimes” in Gaza continue.
The Islamic Republic refers to its aligned armed groups around the Middle East as being part of the Axis of Resistance.
While openly admitting its backing for Hamas, the Islamic Republic insists it was not involved in the attack on Israel.