Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said that a senior Iranian military commander pledged all of the Islamic Republic’s military resources to help the Gaza-based terror group fight Israel over Jerusalem.
“All our of capabilities and potential are at your disposal in the battle for the defense of Jerusalem,” Sinwar said Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force, told him over the phone.
The statements by Sinwar regarding Soleimani were broadcast Monday by the pro-Iranian Lebanese news outlet al-Mayadeen, and seemed to be from a speech he gave on Thursday in Gaza to young men and social media activists.
According to Sinwar, Soleimani asserted that “Iran, the Revolutionary Guards, and Quds Force stand with all they have with our people in order to defend Jerusalem so that Jerusalem will endure as the capital of the state of Palestine.”
Sinwar stressed that Suleimani has promised to provide the Palestinian people with all the means at the IRGC’s disposal in the struggle for Jerusalem. Suleimani had contacted the military leadership of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in recent weeks, after the destruction of the two offensive tunnels from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
Sinwar in August said his group had restored relations with Iran and is using its newfound financial and military aid from Tehran to gear up for a new round of hostilities with Israel.
“Today, the relationship with Iran is excellent, or very excellent,” Sinwar said and added that the Islamic Republic is “the largest backer financially and militarily” to Hamas’ military wing.
The Quds Force, which Suleimani heads, conducts foreign operations outside Iran’s borders and directs the Islamic Republic’s terrorist activities throughout the world. Suleimani is the subject of a travel ban from the UN but nevertheless has reportedly met with Russian officials several times in recent years. He has also been spotted in Syria, where Iran is actively helping President Bashar al-Assad in fighting rebels trying to oust him.
In the past, he has ridiculed calls for Hamas to be disarmed, saying that “disarmament of resistance is a daydream that will only come true in the graveyard” for Israel.
Iran is a supporter of Hamas, despite the fact that relations between the two soured several years ago when Hamas refused to support Assad. An angry Iran then reportedly stopped supplying the terror group with weapons.
Sinwar, who said he met with the Iranian military commander in Tehran in 2012, added that Soleimani was in touch with the leadership of the military branches of both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
In a move that delighted much of Israel’s leadership but ignited protests across the Muslim world, U.S. President Donald Trump announced on December 6 that the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and planned to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.
In recent weeks, following the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh called for an intifada against Israel. Since then, there have been many clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in both the West Bank and on the Gaza border, with rockets being fired from the strip indiscriminately into Israel. So far, the riots have not escalated to the full-blown intifada the Hamas leadership has hoped for.
Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, has fought three wars with the Jewish state since seizing power from Fatah in the Gaza Strip in 2007. The terror group has been urging a new intifada, or uprising, since Trump’s declaration, and has encouraged thousands of Gazans to confront Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence, where there have been several fatalities in clashes in recent weeks.
In recent months, Hamas has publicly flaunted its burgeoning ties with Iran, and the Islamic Republic has in turn sworn to increase its military backing for the Gaza-based terror group. Sinwar has said that Iran has become the key military sponsor for the Gaza-based terror group, though he has not explained in what capacity Tehran provides support.
In November, a high-profile Hamas delegation visited Iran in order to attend the funeral service for Soleimani’s father. The delegation included deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri and a second official, Ezzat al-Rishq. In that occasion Al-Aruri, the deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau and a sanctioned terrorist stressed on Tuesday that the group and Iran have agreed to set aside their past differences.
“We have come (to Iran) to show that differences are now history. We have made a major agreement not to allow the differences leave a negative impact on our bilateral ties in a bid to enable ourselves leave obstacles behind. Our relations with Iran don’t harm any other governments, including Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others. We will welcome any of these nations or governments which supports our cause and our nation,” Aruri said in an interview with the Iranian media on Tuesday, as quoted by the semi-official Iranian Fars news agency.