US says Iran assisting base attacks, confirms advisors in Israel
The United States accused Iran on Monday of "actively facilitating" attacks on US bases in the Middle East as it confirmed it had sent a small number of military advisors to Israel.
US concerns have been rising about the potential for regional escalation of Israel's war on Gaza, although Washington has rejected calls for a ceasefire as it says that ally Israel has what it calls a "right to self-defence".
Over 5,000 Palestinians have been killed in 16 days of indiscriminate Israeli bombardment of Gaza, including at least 2,00 children.
"Iran continues to support Hamas and Hezbollah, and we know that Iran is closely monitoring these events and, in some cases, actively facilitating these attacks and spurring on others who may want to exploit the conflict for their own good or for that of Iran," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House.
"We know Iran's goal is to maintain some level of deniability here, but we're not going to allow them to do that," Kirby added.
Until the flareup in violence, President Joe Biden's administration had hailed a period of relative calm with pro-Iranian militias in the region following quiet talks between US and Iranian officials.
But since Wednesday, at least five rocket and drone attacks have targeted three Iraqi military bases where American troops are stationed as part of the international coalition set up to fight the Islamic State group.
Iran's Shia clerical leaders have proclaimed support for Hamas as well as the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, Shia paramilitary groups in Iraq and Yemen's Houthi rebels.
The United States has promised "unlimited" support to Israel since an October 7 assault by Hamas which killed 1,400 Israelis. Kirby confirmed that the United States has also sent a "few" military advisors to Israel.
The officers have experience in "the sorts of operations that Israel is conducting, and may conduct in the future" and were "over there to share some perspectives," Kirby said.
With conditions dire in Gaza, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Monday that he expected the bloc's leaders to call jointly for a "humanitarian pause" to let in assistance.
The United States rejected calls to pause Israel's attacks on Gaza.
A ceasefire would "give Hamas the ability to rest, to refit and to get ready to continue launching terrorist attacks against Israel," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
"You can understand perfectly clearly why that's an intolerable situation for Israel, as it would be an intolerable situation for any country that has suffered such a brutal terrorist attack and continues to see the terrorist threat right on its border," he said.
Miller said that the United States was separately working to ensure a flow of humanitarian relief into Gaza, with a US envoy, David Satterfield, on the ground working "intensively" on aid.