In what could be seen as a rather provocative move, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard held a war game which simulated the capture of Al-Aqsa Mosque from Israeli control. Iranian state media reported on Saturday that thousands of members of the Basij—the parliamentary militia unit of the Guard—stormed a replica of the Holy Site outside the city of Qom.
The operations were reportedly backed up by Guard air support, including drones and helicopters. According to General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Guard’s aerospace division, one of the drones used was a Shahed-129, unveiled in 2013, with a range of 1,700km.
Once the operation was completed, one of the troops was photographed waving an Iranian flag at the top of the dome. However, the replica set up was of the nearby Dome of the Rock with a golden dome, and not the grey-domed Al Aqsa.
The exercises were likely done just for show, given that Israel’s defensive capabilities would make it extremely difficult—if not impossible—for Iran to deploy a military task force of that size to Jerusalem.
Holy to both Jews and Muslims, the site in Jerusalem has been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian tensions in recent weeks, stemming from rumors that Israel was planning to take over control of the site. Clashes erupted across Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, leaving dozens dead.
Iran has remained a strong supporter of Palestine, and a staunch enemy of Israel. It does not recognize Israel, regularly calling for its destruction, and supports military efforts against the state. War games like these can only serve to heighten tensions between the two nations.
Israeli officials reportedly did not wish to comment on the war games, the Independent reported.
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