The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which has been locked in a war with Israel in Gaza for more than six months, defended Iran's attack on Israel that began on Saturday.

"We in Hamas regard the military operation conducted by the Islamic Republic of Iran a natural right and a deserved response on the crime of targeting the Iranian consulate in Damascus and the assassination of several leaders of the Revolutionary Guards," said Hamas in a statement.

Tehran's attacks late on Saturday, launched after a suspected Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 that killed officers of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, raised the threat of a wider regional conflict.

(Reporting and writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Alex Richardson)