Iran launched a missile attack apparently targeting militant bases in western Pakistan which killed two children, officials in Islamabad said.

The operation hit two sites in Balochistan linked to the militant group Jaish al-Adl, Iran’s state TV said. Iran attacked targets in Iraq and Syria earlier this week.

Pakistani officials said two children were killed and three others injured.

Islamabad said the attack was “illegal” and warned of “serious consequences”.

However Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, speaking in Davos, insisted that no Pakistani nationals had been targeted, only members of Jaish al-Adl.

The latest air strike comes at a time of growing tension across the Middle East, with war raging between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza.

Tehran says it does not want to get involved in a wider conflict. But groups in its so-called “Axis of Resistance”, which include the Houthi militants in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and various groups in Syria and Iraq, have been carrying out attacks on Israel and its allies to show solidarity with the Palestinians. The US and UK have launched air strikes on the Houthis after they attacked commercial shipping.

China on Wednesday urged Pakistan and Iran to show “restraint” and “avoid actions that would lead to an escalation of tension”. Foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning added that Beijing saw the countries as “close neighbours”.

Perhaps stung by recent deadly attacks on home soil, Iran seems intent on exacting revenge on those it sees as responsible.

At a time of heightened regional tensions, Iran is keen to portray strength and demonstrate to its own population that acts of violence will not go unpunished.

Tuesday’s strike in Pakistan hit a village in the vast south-western border province of Balochistan. Tehran said it was targeting Jaish al-Adl, or “army of justice”, an ethnic Baloch Sunni Muslim group that has carried out attacks inside Iran as well as on Pakistani government forces.

Last December Jaish al-Adl attacked a police station in Rask, a town close to the border with Pakistan.

Two weeks ago Iran suffered its worst domestic attack since the Islamic Revolution, when two bombs killed 84 people at a ceremony in Kerman to commemorate the US assassination of Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guard general, Qasem Soleimani.

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