Iran, Palestinian Groups Praise Partnership Against Israel After Gaza War

As calm prevailed in the Gaza Strip throughout the first day of a ceasefire, Iran and Palestinian groups involved in the latest flare-up with Israel praised their partnership against their mutual foe.

The 11-day battle between the Israel Defense Forces and a Gaza-based coalition of forces led primarily by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad came to a cautious close on Thursday, as both sides accepted a truce mediated by Egypt. They have since hailed what they saw as victories throughout the brief but bloody war that marked the worst violence between the sides in years.

As the international community watched on, one country in particular has cheered on the Palestinian campaign viewed as part of an "Axis of Resistance" spanning across the Middle East. On Friday, the leaders of this Palestinian campaign directed their gratitude toward Iran.

"We highly appreciate the role of the Islamic Republic in Iran, and all the forces of the Axis of Resistance," Palestinian Islamic Jihad Al-Quds Brigade spokesperson Abu Hamza said in televised remarks, "which provided our resistance with weapons and expertise, and was a true supporter and patron in strengthening the capabilities of the physical and technical resistance."

"And I say to you," he added, "you are our partners in victory."

Shortly after, Hamas Political Burea Chief Ismail Haniyeh showed his own appreciation to Iran for having provided the group with military and financial assistance employed against Israel in the conflict.

"I cannot help but thank those who have given money and weapons to the valiant resistance, the Islamic Republic of Iran," Haniyeh said, "which has not given up on this resistance with money, weapons and technology."

Haniyeh spoke with Revolutionary Guard commander Major General Hossein Salami in a call in which the Hamas leader "expressed his deep appreciation for the stances of the Islamic Republic of Iran in standing by the Palestinian people, their valiant resistance, and their firm stances towards the rights of our people in various areas in politics and in the field," according to a readout shared by the Palestinian group.

Salami, for his part, "praised the achievement of the Palestinian resistance, and said that this battle will have lasting effects on various levels, and affirmed the Islamic Republic's readiness to provide all forms of assistance to the Palestinian people and their valiant resistance in various fields, stressing that Iran will not lag behind its role in this field."

The comments came as Iran's Revolutionary Guard delivered a congratulatory statement Friday to the Palestinian groups that participated in the fight.

The infitada, a term used to refer to Palestinian uprisings, "has grown from throwing stones to firing powerful missiles" and "is decisive in the great events of the future, a future that the Zionists must wait for at any moment to endure the deadly blows" of Palestinian forces, according to the Revolutionary Guard.

That same day, Salami attended the unveiling of a new Iranian armed unmanned aerial vehicle bearing the name "Gaza." The drone was said to be capable of carrying up to 13 bombs and conducting both combat and surveillance missions, with a flight time of 35 hours at a range of some 2,000 kilometers, or 1,242 miles, nearly twice the distance required to reach Israel.

"We called it Gaza so that God willing it can be an eternal honor for those who are resisting the Zionist invasion," Salami said at a ceremony debuting the weapon.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself also weighed in, extending his greetings "to the brave, zealous Palestinian youth" as well as "Hamas, Jihad, and all Palestinian Jihadi and political groups" via a message on his official Twitter account. The Iranian leader said that not just Iran, but all "Muslim states should earnestly enter the field to support the Palestinian nation in both military and financial aspects as well as for reconstructing infrastructures and rebuilding the ruins in #Gaza."

iran, protests, israel, palestinian, hamas
Iranian protesters attend a demonstration against the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, in the Imam Hossein Square, on May 19, in Tehran. Iran was among the most vocal international voices backing the Palestinian fighters engaged in the recent conflict with Israel, the archfoe of the Islamic Republic. Majid Saeedi/AFP/Getty Images

As the ceasefire neared on Thursday, the head of the Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, the successor to slain Major General Qassem Soleimani, penned a letter to Hamas Al-Qassam Brigades commander Mohammed al-Deif, also known as Abu Khaled, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Al-Quds Brigades commander Akram al-Ajouri, also known as Abu Mohammed, applauding the Palestinians having "opened a new chapter in the struggle against the Zionist enemy."

Quds Force commander Brigadier General Esmail Qaani reaffirmed a pact previously made by Soleimani, citing the influential military leader killed in a January 2020 U.S. airstrike in Iraq as saying, "We will not leave you alone, Palestine, no matter how great the pressures and siege intensify."

"The enemy knows with certainty that Palestine is not on its own," Qaani said, "but with it an Axis of Resistance that is growing wider, stronger and more cohesive."

Israeli officials have not directly linked the outbreak of fighting earlier this month to Iran, but have discussed at length the role in which Tehran plays in supporting the Palestinian forces were also

"Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad definitely enjoy significant Iranian backing," a senior IDF officer told reporters on Friday. "Much of the sophisticated weapons inside Gaza were provided by Iran or via Iranian assistance."

And it wasn't just across the Gaza border that Israel saw Iran's hand in the recent unrest.

"While we had the operation at the Gaza front, the rest of the fronts of Israel also experienced various threats," the senior IDF officer said. "We had rockets coming from Lebanon. We received rockets from Syria. And we had mass demonstrations, some of them very violent, including in some parts also infiltration into Israel by Hezbollah operatives from Lebanon and also even along the border with Jordan."

The senior IDF official also confirmed what Israel has identified as a direct Iranian attack using an explosives-armed UAV intercepted near the Jordanian border in northern Israel, and discussed Iran's nearby presence.

"We know that Iran is involved and supports some of the actors in our neighborhood, and this includes both the armed groups in Gaza, but also armed groups, all around," the senior IDF officer said. "You know that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has significant support from Iran. They also have assets both in Lebanon and in Syria and the same also goes for Hamas. So yeah, unfortunately, some of these actors are also proxies of Iran."

Throughout the roughly week-and-a-half-long bout that erupted amid tensions stemming from Israeli families attempting to evict Palestinians from the Israel-occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and the Israeli storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, three volleys of rockets were fired toward Israel from Lebanon and one from Syria.

A Hamas spokesperson told Newsweek on Thursday, in the hours leading up to the ceasefire announcement, that the group welcomed such demonstrations of solidarity.

"We welcome any resistance against the Israeli occupation wherever and whenever it is carried out," the Hamas spokesperson said.

Hamas, for its part, fired what the IDF estimated to be more than 4,300 rockets toward Israel, a number of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system or fell short. The IDF said it struck 1,600 targets in the Gaza Strip, devastating the densely-populated Palestinian enclave.

The Gaza-based Ministry of Health has counted 232 deaths among Palestinians, and the IDF has said 12 were killed in Israel throughout the course of the hostilities.

While the ceasefire appeared to hold through Friday, unrest continued in Jerusalem, where Israeli security forces again raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound as Palestinians continued to protest there.