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memri
June 13, 2019 No.
8116

With No Progress In Indirect U.S.-Iran Contacts, Tehran Sends Threatening Messages Via Its Proxies In Gaza

In recent statements and speeches, Yahya Al-Sinwar, head of Hamas's political bureau in Gaza, and Ziyad Al-Nakhalah, secretary-general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), threatened new confrontations with Israel and praised Iran for its support of their organizations. Some of their statements were delivered at a rally organized by the Palestinian factions in Gaza on the occasion of Qods Day, an annual event that was initiated by the Iranian regime and is held on the last Friday of Ramadan.

Coming at this time, these statements by the leaders of Hamas and the PIJ highlighting Iran's support and its contribution to their fighting abilities are more than just a threat aimed at Israel. They constitute a threatening message sent by Iran, via its proxies, to the U.S. and its allies, in light of the lack of progress in the indirect contacts between Iran and the U.S. over the nuclear issue.

As part of these threatening messages, Hamas leader in Gaza Al-Sinwar stressed the increase in the number and quality of the organization's rockets, and its intention to stage massive attacks on targets in central Israel in the next confrontation. He also declared that Hamas plans to provide the participants of the weekly March of Return protests on the Gaza-Israel border with military training. He praised Iran for the financial and technical assistance it has extended to Hamas, which has enabled it to develop its military capabilities. "All the Arabs have sold out Palestine, but not the Islamic Republic of Iran, which continues to support our people against the Israeli enemy," he said.[1]

PIJ leader Al-Nakhalah said, in an interview with Hizbullah's television channel, that the Palestinian resistance is capable of striking strategic targets in the heart of Israel with its locally-manufactured rockets, including rockets with half-ton warheads, stressing that the PIJ utilizes Iranian weapons and expertise and is closely assisted by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani "knows the men of the [Palestinian] resistance, and they know him well," he said. He added that the PIJ would be part of any regional confrontation between the resistance axis and Israel, and that "the Arab regimes have relinquished Palestine," so their leaders are unfit to lead the Arab nation, whose rights they have relinquished.[2]     

Both leaders slammed the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan known as the "Deal of the Century" as well as the U.S.-led "Peace to Prosperity" economic workshop scheduled to be held in Bahrain on June 25-26, 2019 to discuss the economic dimensions of the peace plan.[3] This is in line with Iran's position on the Deal of the Century and with Iran's efforts, reported recently in the Arab press, to unite the resistance axis against it.[4]

It should be noted that on Qods Day, similar statements were made in Iran regarding this country's support of the Palestinian armed struggle. In a speech at a Qods Day march in Ahwaz, capital of the Khuzestan Province, Yahya Rahim Safavi, advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said: "The [Iranian] Islamic Revolution's support for Jerusalem is not [merely] tactical, but is born of faith that is anchored in the Quran. It follows from the aspirations of the [Islamic] Revolution and is a major and immutable strategy. We will continue this support until the occupying [Israeli] regime is expunged... Palestine's courageous fighters are now continuing the struggle they started using trees and stones, as well as rockets... Khamenei said that the Zionist regime will cease to exist within 25 years. The countdown to this regime's demise has already begun. Trump's Deal of the Century is a plot to save the Zionist regime using the money of the countries of the region... The strategy of arming the West Bank, which Khamenei underscored, is now being implemented."[5] 

The following are excerpts from Al-Sinwar's and Al-Nakhalah's recent statements.

Statements By Hamas Leader In Gaza Yahya Al-Sinwar

In The Next Confrontation, We Will Double The Number Of Rockets Fired At Tel Aviv And Its Environs

On May 28, 2019, Yahya Al-Sinwar attended an iftar (Ramadan dinner) in honor of young people who participate in the March of Return protests on the border, whom Hamas calls "revolutionary youths," from central and southern Gaza.[6] The event was organized by the Supreme National Council for Return Marches and Breaking the Siege, which organizes the marches on behalf of Hamas and the other Gaza factions.[7] Addressing the participants, Al-Sinwar declared that in any future confrontation, Hamas's military wing, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, will direct massive rocket fire at Tel Aviv, saying: "In the 2012 war we fired 17 rockets at Tel Aviv and its environs and in the 2014 war we fired 107 rockets. [Ahead of] any future confrontation, we have more [rockets] than before, even twice as many as we fired [in the past]."[8]

Return March Protesters Will Undergo Military Training

Al-Sinwar also stated that Hamas intends to provide the "revolutionary youths" with military training, saying: "A plan will be formulated to bring the revolutionaries into military training camps, in preparation for the liberation campaign."[9] It should be noted that the violent character of the protests on the border, and the presence of militiamen among the protesters, turn them into volatile events that often trigger rounds of fighting between Israel and the Gaza factions.[x]


Yahya Al-Sinwar at iftar in honor of "The heroes of the Great Marches of Return on the border" (source:  facebook.com/seraj.media2, May 28, 2019)

Without Iranian Assistance, We Wouldn't Have The Capacity To Fire Rockets At Tel Aviv

On May 30, 2019, Al-Sinwar attended the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada.

The conference was held by the Gaza factions on the occasion of Qods Day, which is marked in many Arab countries, as well as by Muslims in the West, with mass marches against Israel. Hamas's mouthpiece Al-Risalah reported that, at the event, Iran extended a grant of over $500,000 to "1,700 families of [Gazan] martyrs whose benefits have been cut [by the Palestinian Authority]."[9]

Coming against the backdrop of the recent Arab and Islamic summits in Saudi Arabia, at which decisions were taken against Iran,[12] and the economic workshop associated with the Deal of the Century, scheduled to take place in Bahrain in late June, Al-Sinwar's address at the event, which included threats against regional leaders and incitement directed at the Bahraini people, clearly expressed Hamas's support for Iran and its axis. Al-Sinwar stressed Iran's central role in enhancing the military capabilities of Hamas and other Palestinian organizations, noting the progress they have made over the years: "In 2008-2009, the resistance fired several dozen locally-manufactured Grad rockets [into Israel]. In the 2012 war it managed to develop its means and bombard Tel Aviv with 18 Fajr rockets, and in 2014 it fired over 170 Fajr rockets at Tel Aviv. All this was with the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran."[13]

He added: "We will continue to develop our capabilities to fight the occupation. Iran assisted us with rockets and supported us financially and technically in developing the rockets of the resistance that were fired at Tel Aviv. Without its support, the resistance would not have attained such military capabilities at a time when the [Arab] nation has deserted us... Nobody should blame us for our gratitude towards Iran, for it behooves us to thank everyone who helps us realize the goals of our people and our nation." Al-Sinwar advised the Arab leaders to take an example from Iran and support the Palestinian resistance if they wish to stay in power.[14]

The Arabs Have All Sold Out Palestine; Only Iran Continues To Support Us

Al-Sinwar stated further: "This is a decisive moment, and the Arab leaders, kings and rulers must stand united against the Deal of the Century. The Arabs have all sold out Palestine, and only the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to support our people against the Israeli occupation."[15]  He said that Hamas's next "genuine campaign" will take place in the West Bank, in order to thwart the Deal of the Century: "We are willing to be the fuel that will cause this deal to collapse, and we will not hesitate to achieve this at the cost of the lives of our leaders and our sons. This deal will not come to pass as long as we have a single drop of blood still flowing in our veins... In the next stage, our genuine campaign will be over the [West] Bank, because the occupation's expansionist dreams focus on [the West Bank]. We urge Fatah to talk [to us] with one voice, and to join forces [with us] in foiling and thwarting the Deal of the Century. Our people in the [West] Bank can cause the deal to collapse, at a cost to the enemy... We know who our friends are and who our enemies are... Whoever supports the resistance and Jerusalem is a friend, and whoever wants to sell Jerusalem is an enemy." In the same address, Al-Sinwar called on the Bahraini people to declare the days of the economic workshop a period of mourning, and said: "Stay home, put up black banners [as a sign of mourning] and do not go out into the streets. Declare to the world that you support Jerusalem and that you will not stab your Palestinian brothers in the back."[16]

View the MEMRI TV clip of Al-Sinwar's statements here or below:

In another speech before Gaza dignitaries, at a June 3, 2019 event titled "United against the Deal of the Century," Al-Sinwar renewed his attack on the Arab leaders and what he called the campaign in the Arab media in favor of normalizing relations with Israel, saying: "Arabs, shrieking like crows, are spreading Zionist propaganda and saying that Jerusalem now belongs to the Jews and the Zionists and that we have no right to it. We in Palestine feel that we have been deserted by the official Arab regimes, which possess weapons and capabilities while we in Gaza dig into the soil with our fingernails so that our jihad fighters will be able to defend themselves."[17]  Al-Sinwar expressed amazement at what he called the efforts of some Arab countries to appease Israel, "that cowardly entity that fears young men who emerge from tunnels and crush the heads of its soldiers."[18]  

Statements By Islamic Jihad Leader Ziyad Al-Nakhalah

Arab Leaders Are Unfit For Their Roles And Belong To Enemy Camp

At the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada, held, as noted, on May 30, 2019 to mark Qods Day, PIJ secretary-general Ziyad Al-Nakhalah stressed, in a recorded speech, that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas's opposition to the Deal of the Century was a  manifestation of "the failure of the plan for a [peace] arrangement with the Zionist entity" and was also a reason to convene "a national meeting of all our people's [political] power elements, by means of which we will return to the [original] PLO plan and to its national charter that calls for liberation and [the right of] return."

In his speech, Al-Nakhalah, like Al-Sinwar, condemned Arab leaders, stating: "We have always said that the Arab regimes have relinquished Palestine, and we say today as well that the leaders, kings, and presidents of the [Arab] countries are unfit to lead [the Arab] nation, that they are abandoning its rights, and are relinquishing the holy sites. How can they be leaders accepted by their people while they act this way?! We will all shout together, in their faces: Get away from us, you belong to the enemy camp."

Underlining also the increased strength of the Palestinian resistance, Al-Nakhalah said: "Every day, the world is witness to the resistance of our people – through the Marches of Return at the Gaza border, through the unceasing clashes against the settlement [enterprise] in the West Bank, and through the bold resistance that imposes a new equation on the Zionist enemy in every battle that it wages against it and proves that the time when Israel imposed what it wanted is over. With the daring of its fighters, and with the development of its capabilities, the resistance has proven, in its battles in recent years, that it can act in ways no one expects. We are not far off from the equation of 'if you shell Gaza, we will shell Tel Aviv...'"[19]


PIJ secretary-general Ziyad Al-Nakhalah (source: paltoday.ps, May 30, 2019)

The Resistance Can Crush Israel With Over 1,000 Rockets A Day; We Will Use Rockets With Half-Ton Warheads

In an interview the same day, May 30, with Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV, Al-Nakhalah pointed out the increased strength of the PIJ's military wing, saying: "The Palestinian resistance has fighters willing to fight and freely give their lives on the battlefield, [a fact] that lends great value to [even] the simplest weapon on the battlefield... Under the shadow of the siege, most of the weapons in Gaza are manufactured by the resistance. The occupation thinks that the siege will impact the resistance – on the contrary, the resistance is manufacturing and developing its own weapons, such that they reach Tel Aviv and all Israeli cities." He added: "The resistance is capable of crushing the Zionist cities with over 1,000 rockets a day for months... In every future clash with the occupation, the resistance will use rockets with half-ton warheads...

"The resistance is capable of attacking strategic centers and facilities in the Zionist entity... The resistance will have no 'red lines' in any future confrontation. Israel needs to understand this equation full well. It must not carry out violations against the Palestinian civilians. Any aggression against Gaza will be followed by the shelling not only of Tel Aviv, but of all the Israeli cities, regardless of the outcome..."

Al-Nakhalah went on to say that IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani "knows the men of the resistance, and they know him well," and that Iran is committed to supporting the Palestinian resistance and developing its capabilities so that it can fight Israel. He said that this aid "can help develop the resistance to the point of achieving liberation, not only standing fast in the face of the occupation," and added:

"The claim that Iran is an enemy [of the Arabs] is untrue. On the contrary, it is standing against Israel, and it is the only country that is supporting the Palestinian people as they confront it... Without Iran and its support for the Palestinian people by all means at its disposal, the situation would be completely different. Palestine would become Israel, and the Palestinians would become slaves of the Israelis... The resistance is fighting with some of Iran's weapons and knowhow... The resistance axis is a single axis in the confrontation with the [Israeli] aggression, and all the [resistance] organizations that comprise it share all its knowhow and capabilities..."

He stated further that the PIJ is part of the regional battle against the Zionist enemy, and clarified that the West Bank is a central part of the agenda of the resistance movements and that "day and night, work is ongoing to develop the resistance capabilities there..."[20]

View the MEMRI TV clip of Nakhaleh's statements here or below:

A few days later, senior PIJ official Muhammad Shalah said that the resistance in Gaza would not be capable of facing the Israeli enemy without support from Iran, Syria and Hizbullah, and called for joining the resistance axis because it was "the quickest way to expel the American-Zionist occupation from the region." He also condemned the upcoming economic workshop in Bahrain, and the "treasonous" Arab leaders planning to attend it.[21]

[1] Moqawmh.ps, May 30, 2019. For additional statements by Al-Sinwar praising Iran's support of Hamas, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1389, Hamas Supporters Deeply Divided Over Movement's Links With Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), April 4, 2018.

[2] Paltoday.ps, May 30, 2019.

[4] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), June 3, 2019; raialyoum.com, June 5, 2019.

[5] Farsnews.com, May 31, 2019.

[6] Palsawa.com, May 29, 2019.

[8] Gazaalaan.net, May 28, 2019.

[9] Gazaalaan.net, May 28, 2019.

[10] Hamas often describes the protests as "nonviolent," but at the same time the organization, and Al-Sinwar himself, have admitted that many of the protesters are members of its military wing in civilian clothing. See MEMRI TV Clip No. 6576, Hamas Leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar: Our People Took Off Their Military Uniforms and Joined the Marches; We Decided to Turn the Bodies of Our Women and Children into a Dam Blocking Arab Collapse, May 16, 2018.  Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar stated that calling the marches "peaceful resistance" is "terminological deception," for "this is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies," i.e., by Hamas's military wing. See MEMRI TV Clip No. 6573, Senior Hamas Official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar on Gaza Protests: This Is Not Peaceful Resistance, It Is Supported by Our Weapons, May 13, 2018. Hamas political bureau head Isma'il Haniya likewise explained that the Return Marches combine "popular resistance" and "military resistance," with the latter defending the former. Hamas.ps, June 7, 2018. 

[11] Alresalah.ps, May 28, 2019. PIJ official Khader Habib thanked Iran for its willingness to help the Palestinians despite all the difficulties it is facing, adding that, "since the beginning of the [Islamic] Revolution, it did not withhold assistance from our people and from its resistance for a [single] day." Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), May 30, 2019.

[12] In the last days of May 2019, three regional summits were held in Mecca. Two of them, emergency summits of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and of the Arab League, were convened by Saudi Arabia to present a united Gulf front vis-à-vis Iran in response to recent incidents: the attack on the Saudi oil facilities by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Fujairah attack on the oil tankers, two of which were Saudi. A third summit, which had been scheduled in advance, was held under the aegis of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

[13] Moqawmh.ps, May 30, 2019.

[14] Palinfo.com, May 30, 2019.

[15] Moqawmh.ps, May 30, 2019.

[16] Palinfo.com, May 30, 2019.

[17] Filastin (Gaza), June 3, 2019.

[18] Hamas.ps, June 3, 2019.

[19] Paltoday.ps, May 30, 2019.

[20] Paltoday.ps, May 30, 2019.

[21] Alwatan.sy, June 3, 2019.