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January 5, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9123

Marking Anniversary Of Killing Of IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, Hamas Continues To Signal Loyalty To Iran, Resistance Axis

January 5, 2021
Iran, Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 9123

On the anniversary of the January 3, 2020 killing of IRGC Qods Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike outside Baghdad International Airport, Hamas's leadership has signaled its ongoing loyalty to the regional camp of the Iran-led resistance axis, as it continues to provoke disputes among its supporters concerning its relationship with Iran and the IRGC. The disputes focus on Iran's activity: as it provides the Palestinian organizations with money and weapons, it is at the same time involved in civil wars in Arab countries in which many civilians have died.[1]

This report reviews Hamas's pro-Iran messages on the anniversary of Soleimani's killing:

Disputes Among Gaza Residents, Hamas Supporters Over Billboards Commemorating Soleimani

In late December 2020, billboards and posters were erected around the Gaza Strip featuring photos of Soleimani and a quote from Hamas political bureau head Isma'il Haniyah's eulogy for him at his funeral in Tehran: "The martyr commander Soleimani, who devoted his life to supporting the resistance, is a martyr of Jerusalem."[2]


Gaza billboard commemorating Soleimani, with quote from Haniyah's eulogy (Source: Independentarabia.com, December 30, 2020)

The commemorative posters prompted criticism of Hamas on social media, among Palestinians and across the Arab world. Hussam Al-Dajany, a columnist for the Hamas-affiliated daily Filastin, attempted to play down the criticism and claimed that a similar controversy had broken out over billboards with photos of Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi, and over humanitarian assistance provided to the Gaza Strip by the UAE. He tweeted: "Our lives are full of controversy, and although these controversies are healthy and useful, we must understand that what counts in politics are interests and not principles..."[3]

Other Palestinian elements were less tolerant of the posters. For instance, in posts on his Facebook page, a Salafi sheikh from Rafah, Majdy Al-Moghraby, urged residents of the Gaza Strip to tear down the posters and, addressing "every hero who can rid the land of Gaza of this disgrace," urged them to "erase, tear and deface the pictures..."[4] After he himself was filmed tearing down posters of Soleimani, Al-Moghraby was arrested by the Hamas security apparatus and held for five days.[5]

In response to the defacing of Soleimani posters in Gaza, Isam Shawar, a columnist for the Filastin daily, wrote on his Facebook page: "No damage is [caused] by tearing up the imagine of the man who tore apart the children of Syria. Victory comes from Allah, and not from Hizbullah or from Iran. Perhaps the one whom you are attempting to elevate [i.e. Soleimani] is now in the lowest pit of hell."[6] Such sentiments clearly contradict the Hamas leadership's official line.


A vandalized billboard commemorating Soleimani in Gaza (Source: Alhurra.com, December 31, 2020)

Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad Officials: Soleimani Gave Us More Assistance With Ammunition And Money Than Any Of His Predecessors

In advance of the first anniversary of Soleimani's killing, senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) officials were interviewed by all media outlets associated with the resistance axis. In these interviews, the officials expressed appreciation for Iran and its military aid, as they do from time to time.[7]

At a January 2, 2021 memorial for Soleimani, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said: "During the time of aggression of 2008-2009 [i.e. Israel's Operation Cast Lead] a shortage of anti-tank weapons was discovered among the resistance fighters in Gaza, and Soleimani tried [to ensure] that those weapons would arrive in the shortest possible time..."[8]

In a December 27, 2020 interview with Al-Mayadeen TV, Hizbullah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah clarified that the weapons referred to were Russian Kornet anti-tank guided missiles, which were transported via Syria. He said: "The brother Al-Hajj Qassem [Soleimani] told me: 'Oh Sayyid [Nasrallah], we must take the Kornet [missiles] that you have and send them to the brothers in Gaza' of course we were talking about Hamas and PIJ. I answered him: '...We took those missiles from the brothers in Syria. President Bashar Al-Assad agreed that those missiles, which Syria purchased from Russia, are in South Lebanon, but I don't know whether he will agree to them being in Gaza... It is only right that I request his approval.' [Soleimani] told me: 'No problem. Whoever meets with him first will speak to him.'

"By chance, I was the first to meet with President Al-Assad, and so I spoke to him... [Assad] said: 'As far as I'm concerned, there's no problem.' At the same time, Qassem [Soleimani] and the joint [Qods Force-Hizbullah] cell... received the Kornet [missiles] and transferred them [to Gaza].

"This is [only] one example. Everyone knows that the brother Qassem Soleimani and the brothers in the Islamic Republic of Iran also sent [military] aid to Gaza using [their] diplomatic relations – for example, their relations with Sudan. Things came to the point where Israeli planes bombed factories or weapons storehouses in Sudan... because they are storehouses for weapons, ammunition and missiles to be sent later, by various and diverse means, to the Gaza Strip."[9]

Regarding the Kornet missiles which Hamas received from Iran, senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar told Al-Mayadeen TV in a December 28, 2020 interview: "The Kornet missile has become necessary for the struggle against the occupation state... The Kornet conveyed to the occupation the message that it will be difficult for it to approach the [Gaza] borders... The Kornet constitutes a deterrent force that should be developed, in preparation for the defeat of the occupation and all its collaborators." Alluding to Iran, Al-Zahar thanked "all those who provide assistance to the resistance in the struggle against the occupation, even if it is [as small as] a pen."[10]  

PIJ secretary general Ziyad Al-Nakhalah similarly praised Soleimani. In a December 31 interview with Al-Mayadeen TV, he said: "We have had the Kornet [missile] in our possession since 2012, as have our brothers in Hamas. In all the campaigns [against Israel]... the resistance has used them... All the conventional weapons reached [Gaza] via Al-Hajj Qassem Soleimani, Hizbullah, and Syria, and the entire [resistance] axis played a part in transporting them... There are training camps in Syria where our brothers in Hamas received special training to produce the rockets..."

Nakhalah said that Soleimani had personally "supervised and directed the transfer of the missiles to Gaza [and had] travelled among several countries to persuade them [to help with this]... He personally visited Sudan [and arrived at] a clear agreement that it [Sudan] would serve as a station for the transfer of the weapons."[11] Nakhalah also revealed that Soleimani had send 10 shiploads of weapons to the Gaza Strip.[12]

Furthermore, senior PIJ official Akram Al-Ajouri wrote, in an article in the Al-Akhbar daily: "He [Soleimani] also helped greatly with the establishment of the tunnel infrastructure throughout the [Gaza] Strip."[13]

Senior Hamas members also expressed their appreciation of Soleimani, for the economic aid that he transferred to them from Iran. In a December 27 interview with Al-Alam TV, Mahmoud Al-Zahar revealed that in a 2006 meeting with Soleimani, when Al-Zahar was Palestinian Authority (PA) foreign minister, he had described the difficulties of paying PA salaries and stipends because of the sanctions on the PA that followed Hamas's electoral win. That very day, he said, he "discovered $22 million dollars waiting for me in suitcases at the airport... Each suitcase weighed 40 kilograms."

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Joint Exercise Of Gaza Palestinian Factions – A Message From Iran To The U.S.

On December 29, 2020, a large exercise involving all the military branches of the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip was conducted.[14] Although Hamas and the joint command center did not explicitly mention Soleimani's name in the context of the exercise,[15] the fact that it was held close to the anniversary of Soleimani's killing was likely an indirect message from Iran to the U.S.[16]

This message was expressed in the Arab media, when the Hizbullah-affiliated Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily reported that, according to Palestinian sources, the exercise was coordinated with "friends in the resistance axis" – i.e. the pro-Iran axis – and that it was intended as a show of strength to deter Israel and the U.S. from attacking the Gaza Strip in the final days of Donald Trump's presidency.

A similar report appeared in the Al-Arab daily; this report even referred to the exercise as "a clear Iranian move."[17]

 

[3] Twitter.com/hdajany, December 28, 2020.

[4]  Facebook.com/majdy.moghraby, December 28-31, 2020.

[5] Amad.ps, December 31, 2020; January 3, 2021.

[6] Facebook.com/drisamshawar, January 3, 2021.

[8] Asfar-lb.org, January 2, 2021

[9] Alahednews.com.lb, December 27, 2020.

[10] Almayadeen.net, December 28, 2020.

[11] Almayadeen.net, December 31, 2020.

[12] Almayadeen.net, January 1, 2021.

[13] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 4, 2021.

[15] Palinfo.com, December 29, 2020; T.me/resistFactions, December 29, 2020.

[17] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 30, 2020; Al-Arab (London), December 30, 2020.

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