Middle East tinderbox threatens to explode as Pakistan air force launches airstrikes on Iran at ‘militant targets’ it says are behind missiles that killed two children

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • The strikes in Sistan and Baluchestan province follow Iran´s attack Tuesday on Pakistani soil that killed two children in the southwestern Baluchistan province
  • The air attacks imperil diplomatic relations between the two neighbors, as Iran and Pakistan have long regarded each other with suspicion over militant strikes
  • They also raise the threat of a full-blown war breaking out in a Middle East – already plagued by Israel ‘s now months-long conflict with Hamas in Gaza 

Pakistan’s air force has launched retaliatory airstrikes on two alleged ‘militant positions’ Iran, days after an Iranian airstrike killed two children in the southwestern part of the country.

The air attacks in Sistan and Baluchestan province Thursday, in turn, killed at least seven – and threaten to further enflame tensions between the two nations.

The strikes also imperil already dodgy diplomatic relations between the two neighbors, as Iran and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long regarded each other with military suspicion.

They also raise the threat of a full-blown war breaking out in a Middle East – already plagued by Israel’s now months-long conflict with Hamas. 

Iraq, meanwhile, has recalled its ambassador from Iran for consultations, after Iran admitted to carrying out the missile and drone operation in the Baluchistan province in Western Pakistan Tuesday.

Pakistan ‘s air force has launched retaliatory airstrikes on two alleged ‘militant positions’ Iran , days after an Iranian airstrike killed two children in the southwestern part of the country.

The air attacks in Sistan and Baluchestan province Thursday, one of which is seen here, killed at least seven - and threaten to further enflame tensions between the two nations. Pictured: Smoke billowing over the Iranian city Saravan early Thursday

The air attacks in Sistan and Baluchestan province Thursday, one of which is seen here, killed at least seven – and threaten to further enflame tensions between the two nations. Pictured: Smoke billowing over the Iranian city Saravan early Thursday

Photos out of Eastern Iran – near Saravan some 20 miles from the border – appear to show smoke engulfing much of the city early Thursday, as a fire continued to burn from one of the targeted buildings,

The exactly location of the hit structure, as of Thursday morning, was not specified, but Pakistani Armed Forces sources labeled the site a ‘militant compound.’

Iranians, meanwhile, continue to report significant damage to multiple residential buildings and possible civilian casualties near the city.

As photos show some of the damage, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement justifying the country’s actions. 

‘This morning’s action was taken in light of credible intelligence of impending large scale terrorist activities,’ it read.

‘This action is a manifestation of Pakistan’s unflinching resolve to protect and defend its national security against all threats.’

The agency went on to describe the operation as ‘a series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes,’ despite some reports of hit residential buildings and potential civilian casualties.

Further stirring the figurative Middle East pot is the fact that Iran already staged multiple airstrikes in Iraq and Syria late Monday – after an Islamic State-claimed suicide bombing that killed over 90 people earlier in the month.

The strikes also imperil already dodgy diplomatic relations between the two neighbors, as Iran and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long regarded each other with military suspicion. Pictured: Smoke engulfing the Iranian city Saravan early Thursday

The strikes also imperil already dodgy diplomatic relations between the two neighbors, as Iran and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long regarded each other with military suspicion. Pictured: Smoke engulfing the Iranian city Saravan early Thursday

They also raise the threat of a full-blown war breaking out in a Middle East - already plagued by Israel 's now months-long conflict with Hamas. Pictured: Smoke engulfing the Iranian city Saravan early Thursday

They also raise the threat of a full-blown war breaking out in a Middle East – already plagued by Israel ‘s now months-long conflict with Hamas. Pictured: Smoke engulfing the Iranian city Saravan early Thursday

Pakistan's foreign ministry described the operation as 'a series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes,' despite some reports of hit residential buildings and potential civilian casualties. Pictured: Civillians assessing damage Thursday

Pakistan’s foreign ministry described the operation as ‘a series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes,’ despite some reports of hit residential buildings and potential civilian casualties. Pictured: Civillians assessing damage Thursday

Several insurgent groups, meanwhile operate in both Iran and Pakistan – including the Jaish al-Adl Sunni separatist group that was targeted by Tehran in its own strike – adding to an already volatile situation.

They all have a common goal of an independent Baluchistan for ethnic Baluch areas in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, and Pakistan´s Baluchistan province, as well as Iran´s neighboring Sistan and Baluchestan province, have faced the brunt of their efforts.

That said, Pakistan named its operation Thursday ‘Marg Bar Sarmachar’ – a reference to famous Farsi saying used in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, with the first two words meaning death to, and usually used to refer to both the US and Israel.

Meanwhile, in the local Baluch language, ‘sarmachar’ means guerrilla – and is commonly used by the militants operating in the cross-border region.

A deputy governor of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province, Ali Reza Marhamati, gave the casualty figures from Thursday’s strike in a telephone interview, saying the dead included three women and four children. 

He did not immediately elaborate, other than to say that the dead were not Iranian citizens.

HalVash, an advocacy group for the Baluch people, shared images online that appeared to show the remains of the munitions used in the attack. 

A deputy governor of Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province, Ali Reza Marhamati, gave the casualty figures from Thursday's strike in a telephone interview, saying the dead included three women and four children.

A deputy governor of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province, Ali Reza Marhamati, gave the casualty figures from Thursday’s strike in a telephone interview, saying the dead included three women and four children. 

If Marhamati's account of the casualties is correct, the country duplicated Pakistan's minor-killing offense Tuesday at least two fold. Iranians are still assessing the full extent of the attack

If Marhamati’s account of the casualties is correct, the country duplicated Pakistan’s minor-killing offense Tuesday at least two fold. Iranians are still assessing the full extent of the attack

The attack further raises tensions in a Middle East already roiled by Israel 's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Pictured: Smoke rises following Israeli air strikes in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, on January 16

The attack further raises tensions in a Middle East already roiled by Israel ‘s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Pictured: Smoke rises following Israeli air strikes in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, on January 16

It said a number of homes had been struck in Saravan, a city in Iran´s Sistan and Baluchestan province. It shared videos showing a mud-walled building destroyed and smoke rising over the strike immediately after.

Thursday’s development came a day after Pakistan recalled its ambassador to Tehran because of Tuesday’s strikes by Iran inside Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province. Iran claimed it targeted bases for a militant Sunni separatist group. 

It drew strong condemnation from Pakistan, which denounced the attack as a ‘blatant violation’ of its airspace and said it killed two children.

If Marhamati’s account of the casualties is correct, the country duplicated Pakistan’s minor-killing offense at least two fold.

As Iranians continue to assess the full scope of the attack, the war more than a thousand miles west in Israel continues to rage.

Another 1,000 miles southwest, four fresh strikes were carried out by the US on Yemen Tuesday, targeting anti-ship ballistic missiles used by the Houthi rebels.

On Tuesday, shorly after Iran’s attack on Pakistani soil, the Iran-backed group warned that British and American ships in the Red Sea have now become ‘legitimate targets’, following joint strikes against military sites run by the group that’s been described by Joe Biden as ‘terrorists.’

 

The Houthis have sporadically targeted ships in the region, but the attacks have ramped up since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

In response, the US launched Operation Prosperity Guardian – an international coalition to safeguard the region, with many other countries, including Spain and the UK, taking part.

A reported 1,200 commercial ships have passed through the sea since the operation was launched on December, with none hit by drone or missile strikes until the first phase of the Sunday strike, when militants attacked the Hangzhou with several missiles.

US Navy Vice Admiral Brad Cooper on Friday had already warned that even with the taskforce, the Houthis do not seem set on ending their ‘reckless’ attacks, after targeting more than 100 ships in the Red Sea since November.

The Sunday attack shows the group’s continued resolve to support Hamas,  which Israel recently pledged to continue to try to eradicate.

The incidents have fueled concerns about the danger of the Israeli offensive sparking a wider conflict and a simultaneous rise in gas prices, as it is also one of the most important routes for oil and liquefied natural gas shipments in the Middle East.

DailyMail.com has reached out to the Navy for comment. 

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