At least seven people were killed in an airstrike by Pakistan’s air force on Iran early on Thursday, which was carried out in retaliation against alleged Iranian terrorist positions and further heightened tensions between the two countries.
The attacks in Sistan and Baluchestan province come after Iran attacked Pakistani territory on Tuesday, killing two children in the Baluchistan province.
The strikes put diplomatic ties between the two countries in jeopardy since Pakistan, which possesses nuclear weapons, and Iran have long harboured misgivings about one another due to terrorist activities.
The strikes also increased the risk of unrest spreading throughout the Middle East, which is still uneasy due to Israel’s conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In response to a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State that took over 90 lives earlier this month, Iran also carried out airstrikes in Syria and Iraq late on Monday. Iraq has also recalled its envoy to Iran back for talks.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said that their attack on Iran was “a series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes.”
In a statement, the ministry said, “This morning’s action was taken in light of credible intelligence of impending large-scale terrorist activities. This action is a manifestation of Pakistan’s unflinching resolve to protect and defend its national security against all threats.”
Pakistan called the operation “Marg Bar Sarmachar,” as “Marg bar” is a well-known Iranian terminology that has been used to criticise both Israel and the United States since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The phrase is translated as “death to” in Farsi. The militants that operate in the cross-border region use the term “sarmachar,” which means guerrilla, in the native Baluch language.
In a phone conversation, Ali Reza Marhamati, the deputy governor of Sistan and Baluchestan province in Iran, provided the death toll from Thursday’s strike. He said that among the deceased were three women and four children who lived close to the border town of Saravan in Sistan and Baluchestan province. He confirmed that there had been another explosion close to Saravan and stated that the deceased were not Iranian nationals.
The events of Thursday occurred one day after Pakistan pulled back its envoy to Tehran due to Iran’s attacks in Pakistan’s southern state of Baluchistan on Tuesday. Iran said it hit locations used by a Sunni separatist organisation with extreme tactics. Pakistan, which described the incident as a “blatant violation” of its airspace and said two children were killed, strongly condemned it.
Following the incident, Iranian state television, citing an unnamed official, stated that Tehran “demanded an immediate explanation” from Pakistan and vehemently denounced the attack.