Lebanese press reports from recent days indicate that Esmail Qaani, the commander of the Qods Force in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), visited Lebanon in the first week of April and met with officials from Hizbullah, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and other Iran-backed militias, and that the decision to fire dozens of rockets from South Lebanon into Israel on April 6, 2023 was taken at that meeting.
According to the reports, the officials met at an iftar meal (the meal ending the daily Ramadan fast) organized by Hizbullah and held at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. The meeting took place on April 5, the day before a barrage of rockets was fired from South Lebanon into northern Israel. One of the reports claims that the meeting was also attended by representatives of the Iraqi Al-Hashd Al-Sha'bi (the Popular Mobilization Unit, PMU) and the Houthis in Yemen, and that the participants agreed to unite all the fronts and arenas in every future confrontation with Israel. According to another source, one of the objectives of this joint escalation of the conflict with Israel, agreed upon by all the Iran-backed forces, is to strengthen Iran in its negotiations with the West.
It should be noted that, on April 9, 2023, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah met with a senior Hamas delegation headed by the chief of the organization's political bureau, Isma'il Haniya, and his deputy Saleh Al-'Arouri. This meeting was reported by many media outlets, including ones affiliated with the resistance axis, and was regarded as a message from Hizbullah and Hamas that they are coordinating their activity. A report on the website of the Hamas mouthpiece Al-Risala stated that the meeting dealt with the significant developments in Palestine and the region and with "the readiness of the resistance axis and the cooperation between its members." It was also noted that, several days earlier, Haniya had met with the leaders of the other Palestinian resistance factions to discuss "developments in the Palestinian arena and in particular the ongoing aggression against Al-Aqsa." According to the report Haniya called on all the factions to join forces and escalate their resistance against the Israeli occupation.
Nasrallah's meeting with the Hamas delegation in Lebanon (Image: Alresalah.ps, April 9, 2023)
It should be noted that the Arab media reported on a visit made by Qaani to Syria in early April. However, his visit to Lebanon was reported only in the Lebanese media.
The following are excerpts from some of the Lebanese reports about Qaani's visit in the country:
The Iftar Table At The Iranian Embassy In Beirut Where Qaani, Haniya, 'Arouri And Others Gathered "Became A Joint Operations Room At Which The Order Was Given" To Launch The Rockets At Israel
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In an April 8 report on the Lebanese website Asasmedia.com, journalist and commentator Ibrahim Rihan described the meeting between the Hizbullah and Palestinian faction officials, at which the decision to fire the rockets into Israel was taken. He wrote: "The timing of the 35-rocket barrage [was chosen] by the commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, Esmail Qaani, and the one who pressed the button to launch the attack from what is left of the Lebanese Republic was the head of Hamas' political bureau, Isma'il Haniya. [The attack came] in response to the Israeli strikes on Iranian [targets] in Syria… and with it Hamas, and Hizbullah behind it, established the principle of the 'united fronts'…
"Esmail Qaani met with Isma'il Haniya, his deputy Saleh Al-'Arouri, PIJ officials and Lebanese figures close to Hizbullah around the iftar table at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, the evening before the rocket attack [on Israel]. The iftar table became a joint operations room at which the order was given and the timing was chosen for the Al-Qlaileh Operation [i.e. the rocket attack on Israel]…"
The Meeting Was Also Attended By Senior Officials Of Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi In Iraq And The Houthi Movement In Yemen
On the following day, April 9, the meeting was also reported in the Al-Nahhar daily, by Lebanese columnist Radwan 'Aqil, who wrote: "The iftar meal held by Hizbullah on the evening of April 5 was not a routine meeting during the month of Ramadan, in terms of the figures who met in the southern Dahiyah and the participation of officials of the highest rank from 'the rejection and resistance axis' in the region. Alongside senior Hizbullah officials, headed by [Hizbullah's] deputy secretary-general, Sheik Naim Qassem, [the meeting] was also attended by senior officials of the [Houthi] Ansar Allah [Movement] in Yemen and Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi in Iraq, and by a group of Palestinian leaders from the PIJ and Hamas, headed by Ziad Al-Nakhaleh and Isma'il Haniya from Gaza. The most prominent of those present at the meeting, which Hizbullah convenes every [year during] Ramadan, was the commander of the Qods Force, Esmail Qaani."
The Participants Affirmed The Action Plan To Unite The Arenas, And That An Attack On Any Faction Will From Now On Ignite All The Arenas
The report continued: "In speeches delivered [during the meeting], the action plan that has been established was affirmed, as well as [the need] to implement it. [The speakers] stressed the 'unity of the arenas' in the region… which, when the need arises, [will be implemented everywhere]: starting with Gaza, moving on to the occupied territories, which are under the Israelis' control – and this means taking action in the heart of Jerusalem and the West Bank – and [finally also] in Lebanon and even Syria. This was the message of the [meeting] participants, who constitute one military heart and believe that an attack on one member of the axis constitutes an attack on all its members. The surprise arrived the following day [April 6], on Thursday afternoon, when dozens of rockets were launched at the Galilee…"
The report explained that, as was agreed at the iftar meal, the goal of the rocket attack on Israel was to send a message to the Israeli leadership that from now on "this axis will not stand idly by" as Israel attempts to preserve the military separation between the various arenas, and that Israel "had better be well-prepared in any future operation it carries out and expect all the fronts of the axis to ignite."
Lebanese News Agency: After The Meeting Qaani Then Left For Syria To Discuss Uniting The Arenas
The Lebanese news agency Al-Markazia also reported on the meeting in Lebanon between Qaani and senior officials from Hizbullah, Hamas, and the PIJ, but it claimed that the meeting took place after the rockets attack. Titled "Will the Meeting of the Iranian [and Iran-backed] Forces Open the Door to Unity of the Arenas?", the report said: "Haniya's visit to Beirut was an opportunity for a meeting of the Iranian [and Iran-backed] forces, including the IRGC, Hizbullah, Hamas and the PIJ. The commander of the Qods Force, Esmail Qaani, convened a meeting with Hizbullah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, PIJ Secretary-General Ziad Al-Nakhaleh and [Hamas leader Isma'il] Haniya in the southern Dahiyah with the goal of consolidating a plan to unite the fronts and the arenas. An iftar meal was held in their honor, following which Qaani left Lebanon for Iran by way of Syria, to hold [additional] talks with the aim of uniting the fronts. The meeting was held after Hamas fired rockets at Israel from Lebanon…
"According to sources, following the agreement to delineate the [maritime] borders [between Israel and Lebanon] Hizbullah couldn't launch rockets at Israel, and therefore this task was passed on to the Palestinians. The sources also claimed that the goal of the Palestinian rockets launched from South Lebanon and the Golan Heights was to unite the fronts and the arenas, so as to strengthen Iran's position and raise the bar for its demands and conditions in [its] negotiations [with the West]…"