In first, Iran's president addresses Palestinians in Gaza

Speaking virtually to hundreds of supporters of Hamas, Ebrahim Raisi urges Palestinians to press on with their struggle against Israel

By AP

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Palestinians wave Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian and Egyptian flags during a rally to mark Jerusalem Day. — AP
Palestinians wave Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian and Egyptian flags during a rally to mark Jerusalem Day. — AP

Published: Fri 14 Apr 2023, 10:02 PM

Iran’s president on Friday delivered an unprecedented speech to an annual pro-Palestinian rally in the Gaza Strip — a rare display of Iran’s importance to the Hamas militant group that rules the territory.

Speaking virtually to hundreds of supporters of Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group gathered at a soccer stadium in Gaza City, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi urged Palestinians to press on with their struggle against Israel.


His speech — the first of its kind to Palestinians — appeared to culminate years of quiet diplomacy aimed at mending a rift between Hamas and its long-time patron, Iran, over the devastating civil war in Syria.

Raisi addressed the crowds of Palestinians on the occasion of “Jerusalem Day,” or Al Quds Day after the city’s Arabic name, which falls on the final Friday of Ramadan. In his speech, Raisi struck a hard line against the Palestinian Authority's recent bilateral meetings with Israel in Aqaba, Jordan, and Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.


A surge of violence in Israel and the West Bank after an Israeli police raid on the holy Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem last week have served to undermine the summits, which sought to de-escalate soaring Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

“The initiative to self-determination is today in the hands of the Palestinian fighters,” Raisi said, dismissing the Palestinian Authority that rules parts of the West Bank not controlled by Israel.

During the ceremony, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yehiyeh Sinwar, celebrated that militants in southern Lebanon, Gaza and Syria had fired rockets into Israeli territory, describing the attacks as a response to the police raid on the Al Aqsa mosque.

“The response came like a simple electric shock,” Sinwar said of the rocket fire.

The US State Department reports that Iran provides some $100 million a year to Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas and the smaller Palestinian Islamic Jihad.



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