Fact Check: Iran Says It Will Hit Israel with Missile Strikes from Lebanon, Yemen and Iran if Attacked?

Khamenei.ir/Wikimedia Commons
Khamenei.ir/Wikimedia Commons


During the Israel-Hamas war in October 2023, Iranian officials said that if Iran were attacked, it would respond with missile strikes on Israel from Lebanon, Yemen and Iran, and send Iranian fighters into Israel from Syria.


Rating: Unproven
Rating: Unproven


The only cited source for this claim, which appeared in a Wall Street Journal exclusive report, was an anonymous Iranian official. As such, we cannot independently verify whether such a threat was sanctioned by the Iranian state. We will update this story as more information comes to light.


On Oct. 7, 2023, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of more than 900 Israelis in the days following. Israel subsequently launched attacks on Gaza and blockaded the region, including banning the transport of food and water, resulting in a death toll of at least 830 Palestinians in Gaza, as of this writing. Hamas' attacks came after a surge in settler violence against Palestinians and months of routine raids on Palestinian cities on the West Bank by Israeli military forces, resulting in the killings of numerous Palestinians.

Israel has blamed Iran for backing Hamas, even if indirectly, in the attacks. The Iranian government has publicly denied this, despite historically supporting the militant group.

An Oct. 8 tweet from The Spectator Index, a profile that appears to do news aggregation on X, claimed that Iranian officials said, “if their country is attacked, there will be strikes on Israel from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq [sic], as well as the sending of fighters from Syria.”

That tweet appeared to rely on the statement of one anonymous Iranian official cited by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in a report published Oct. 8, 2023, titled “Iran Helped Plot Attack on Israel Over Several Weeks.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, an anonymous Iranian official addressed any threat of retaliatory attack on Iran in response to its reported backing of Hamas’ attack: “The Iranian official said that if Iran were attacked, it would respond with missile strikes on Israel from Lebanon, Yemen and Iran, and send Iranian fighters into Israel from Syria to attack cities in the north and east of Israel.” (The quote in the WSJ does not mention Iraq, unlike the above tweet from The Spectator Index.)

Relying on unnamed senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah as sources, the report also stated that Iranian security officials helped plan the attack in Israel and gave the green light for an assault during a meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, the week prior.

However, Mahmoud Mirdawi, a senior Hamas official, told the WSJ the attack had been planned on its own. “This is a Palestinian and Hamas decision,” he said.

Meanwhile, Iran has also publicly stated it was not behind the attacks on Israel, though it has historically backed Hamas. The WSJ reported that after the attack, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi talked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh on Oct. 8.

Iran’s highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also said Iran supports Palestinian resistance, but was not behind the attack: “We kiss the hands of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime,” he said in a televised speech. "This destructive earthquake [Hamas' attack] has destroyed some critical structures [in Israel] which will not be repaired easily [...] The Zionist regime's own actions are to blame for this disaster.”

Even U.S. officials said they have so far not found evidence of Iranian involvement. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Oct. 8: “We have not yet seen evidence that Iran directed or was behind this particular attack [...] That’s something we’re looking at very carefully, and we’ve got to see where the facts lead.”

According to a Reuters report on Oct. 11, 2023, U.S. intelligence learned that Iran likely knew of planned operations by Hamas militants but some Iranian officials were taken by surprise by the militant groups attack into Israel from Gaza. Such officials would normally have been informed of the planned attack by Hamas, according to an unnamed U.S. official who spoke to Reuters.

Iran has a number of paramilitary allies in the region. In addition to its long history with Hamas, it has documented ties with Lebanon’s armed Shia group Hezbollah, and has backed pro-Iran militias in Syria. Iran has also backed the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

While an unnamed Iranian official reportedly made the claim in question in a Wall Street Journal exclusive, the Iranian government has officially distanced itself from the attack, and the U.S. government has not assigned blame to Iran. As such, we are unable to independently confirm that Iranian officials threatened to attack Israel from Iran's neighboring countries in response to any Israeli retaliation against Iran. We therefore rate this claim as “Unproven” until more information comes to light.


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Oct. 10, 2023: The story was amended to note that the quote from the WSJ article is slightly different from the tweet, which mentions Iraq.

Oct. 12, 2023: The story was updated to include the latest U.S. intelligence reports detailing the responses of some Iranian officials.