In an expansion of hostilities rippling through the region as the Israel-Hamas war rages on, Pakistan said on Thursday that it had carried out strikes inside Iran, a day after Iranian forces attacked what they said were militant camps in Pakistan.
The Pakistani Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the country’s forces had conducted “precision military strikes” against what it called terrorist hide-outs in southeastern Iran. The Iranian state-owned television network Press TV said that seven foreigners were killed in the strikes.
A senior Pakistani security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Pakistan had struck at least seven locations used by separatists from the Baluch ethnic group about 30 miles inside the border. The official said that air force fighter jets and drones were used in the Pakistani retaliatory strikes.
A day before, Iran conducted an airstrike in Baluchistan Province in Pakistan. The Iranian government later said that the strike in Pakistan, as well as attacks it conducted this week in Iraq and Syria, showed that Iran would hit back forcefully at enemies anywhere.
An emboldened Iran has been using its proxy forces against Israel and its allies since the war in Gaza began in October. Those actions, and now the attacks by Iran itself on other countries in the region, have increased the risk that the upheaval washing over the Middle East could grow. Iran has been trying to project strength after recent attacks inside its borders had made it look vulnerable.
Pakistan, which is grappling with political and economic troubles, indicated on Thursday that it did not want further escalation in its clash with Iran. In a statement, the Pakistani military called the two neighbors “brotherly countries” and said that “dialogue and cooperation is deemed prudent in resolving bilateral issues” between them.
Syed Muhammad Ali, a security analyst based in Islamabad, said in an interview that Pakistan could not have left Iran’s strike unanswered.
“A calculated and timely response was necessary to negate an Iranian misperception that an unprovoked, surprise military attack on Pakistan will not yield a strong but calibrated and swift response,” he said.
He added that the two sides had strong incentives to let the tensions cool now that Pakistan had responded, “as both countries will not gain anything from any further military exchange or escalation.”
In carefully crafted statements issued on Thursday, Pakistani officials refrained from directly accusing Iran. Pakistan’s narrative mirrored Iran’s rationale for its own strikes, saying that the Pakistani actions similarly targeted only those separatists who had taken refuge across the border.
Pakistani military analysts were hopeful that this could pave the way for diplomatic dialogue between the two nations. Waqar Hasan, a retired army brigadier based in Islamabad, stressed the precision and care with which Pakistan had conducted its targeting inside Iran. “Pakistan and Iran need to move forward,” he said. “I think the situation can de-escalate now.”
After Iran’s strike in Pakistan, Iranian officials said that the attack had been aimed at militants who threatened Iran, but the Pakistani authorities rejected that account, citing what they said were civilian casualties from the strike.
Pakistan denounced the Iranian strike as a blatant violation of international law and warned on Wednesday that it “reserves the right to respond.”
Pakistan has long maintained that Baluch separatists, who have waged a low-level insurgency in Baluchistan Province in southwestern Pakistan for decades, have hide-outs across the border in Iran. Iran has also accused Pakistan of not doing enough to contain militants who have targeted Iranian security.
On Thursday, after the Pakistani strike inside Iran, channels on the messaging app Telegram run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps showed images of rubble from residential areas near the Pakistan border. Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency confirmed that multiple explosions had occurred in the border area.