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January 10, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 9717

On Second Anniversary Of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani's Killing, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad Continue To Praise Him; Controversy In Gaza Over Billboards Commemorating Him

January 10, 2022
Iran, Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 9717

Ahead of the second anniversary of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad on January 3, 2020, the leaders of Hamas and of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) signaled their continued loyalty to the resistance axis, headed by Iran.[1] As they did last year, Hamas and PIJ officials attended memorials for Soleimani, and praised him in interviews they gave, including  to Iranian media outlets, thanking him and Iran for their support of the Palestinian resistance.

Like last year, posters commemorating Soleimani were also put up on billboards around the Gaza Strip, which reawakened the controversy in Gaza over the ties with Iran, due to its involvement in deadly civil wars in several Arab countries, especially Syria.[2] Among the fierce critics of these ties is Majdi Al-Mughrabi, a Salafi sheikh from Rafah. Like last year, he defied Hamas by calling on the people of Gaza to tear down the posters of Soleimani.


Billboards in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip feature Soleimani's portrait and a quote from him: "The friends and supporters of Palestine are our friends, and its enemies are our enemies – that is our policy and so it will remain." (Source: Arabicradio.net, January 2, 2022)

This report reviews the controversy in Gaza over the billboards commemorating Soleimani, and statements by Hamas and PIJ officials on the occasion of the second anniversary of his killing.

Billboards Honoring Soleimani Evoke Controversy In Gaza; Salafi Sheikh Calls To Tear Them Down

As stated, ahead of the second anniversary of Soleimani's killing, posters commemorating him were hung up on billboards around the Gaza Strip, similar to the posters that were put up last year. This gesture angered circles that oppose the ties with Iran. The critics called Soleimani a criminal and a murderer whose hands were stained with the blood of many Arabs and Muslims, because his Qods Force spearheads the Iranian military intervention in the civil wars in Syria and other Arab countries.  Such claims, which contravene the official position of Hamas, were voiced even by activists and supporters of Hamas itself.[3]

Like last year, the protest on social media against the posters of Soleimani was led by Majdi Al-Mughrabi, a Salafi sheikh from Rafah, who defied Hamas by encouraging the Gazans to tear the posters down. On December 30, 2021 he wrote on his Facebook account (which has since been shut down): "Those who love and loyally follow the Prophet [Muhammad], peace be upon him [i.e., Sunni Muslims], must object to having this garbage [i.e., portraits of Soleimani] hanging over their heads, and they should tear it down and trample it underfoot. Those who put up [the posters] and those who consent to this have no honor.[4] The following day he posted: "Although there are [Iranian] mercenaries in Gaza [i.e., Hamas, the PIJ and their allies] who insist on putting up pictures of the dead Soleimani and of others like him from among the leaders of the Rafida [a derogatory term for Shi'ites], there are also devout and righteous believers here, of all [political] streams, who will not agree to having these filthy pictures hanging in the skies of Gaza…"[5]

After some Gazans heeded Al-Mughrabi's call and tore down pictures of Soleimani, he wrote: "Praise Allah, some Muslim youths, clean of hands and pure of heart, tore down several pictures of the dead warmonger and criminal Soleimani, after biased mercenaries put them up in some of Gaza's squares…"[6]  In another post, which included a video showing a poster being torn down and burned, he added: "#Gaza_is_Sunni… Some lions from among the righteous youths whose faith is pure tore down the pictures of the dead Rafidi Soleimani, which were hung up by mercenary hands that are paid to submit reports to their masters in Tehran…"[7]


Screengrab from the video posted by Al-Mughrabi, showing one of the posters being torn down

In response to a statement praising Soleimani issued by Muhammad Al-Buraim, spokesperson for the Popular Resistance Committees,[8] Al-Mughrabi wrote: "What resistance are these mercenaries speaking about?! Resistance [carried out] by smuggling and by expelling, murdering and imprisoning the Syrian people? Or by destroying homes over the heads of unarmed women, children and elders? When he could no longer [continue these actions in Syria, Soleimani] brought the Russian infidels into [the country]. Or perhaps they are talking about similar actions carried out in Iraq, which has been butchered, in Yemen, which has been plundered and destroyed, or in Lebanon?! [Conversely,] how many Jews did this despicable liar kill, and how many times did ne confront or fight them?..."[9] 

Hamas, PIJ Officials: Soleimani Helped The Mujahideen To Become A Strategic Threat To Both Israel And U.S.; Our Missile Capabilities Are Thanks To Him

Ahead of the anniversary of Soleimani's killing, Hamas and PIJ officials attended memorials for him in Iran, alongside Iranian officials, and spoke in his praise. Many of them gave interviews to Iranian media outlets in which they thanked him for enhancing the military capabilities of the Palestinian resistance.

A Hamas delegation headed by movement official Khalil Al-Haya visited Tehran and participated in ceremonies in Soleimani's memory at which he was lauded as a "martyr for Jerusalem" and a "hero of the resistance."[10]


Hamas official Khalil Al-Haya speaking at memorial for Soleimani in Tehran (Source: Hamas.ps, January 5, 2021)


Hamas delegation in Tehran
(Source: Hamas.ps, January 5, 2021)

Hamas Spokesperson: Soleimani Was Assassinated For Supporting Us; We Maintain Close Ties With The Qods Force

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem told the Iranian news agency Fars:  "We ask Allah to have mercy on the soul of the martyr Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the criminal Americans in cooperation with the government of the Zionist entity. It is a known fact that he was martyred because of his support for the just Palestinian cause. His martyrdom reflects the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which always supports the Palestinian rights and resistance and provides [us] with weapons and funds, in addition to its political and diplomatic assistance…

Describing the relations between Hamas and Iran as genuine and deep, on both the official and the popular levels, Qassem added: "We [in Hamas] certainly maintain professional ties with the IRGC and the Qods Force, [which Soleimani headed],  which specializes in handling the Palestinian issue. These ties continue despite the martyr Soleimani's killing. [In fact,] they are really developing, including in terms of coordination, because they do not depend on [specific] individuals… but are a matter of principle. We in Hamas seek to strengthen our ties with anyone who supports our people and our resistance…"[11]

Hamas Official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar: When I Was Foreign Minister, Soleimani Gave Us $22 Million In Cash

Hamas Official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar told the Fars news agency: "The ideology of the martyr Soleimani was identical to the vision of the Hamas leadership, as though we had all imbibed it from the same source… Soleimani had a prominent role [in supporting the Palestinian cause] and he continued to assist [us] unreservedly until the very last moment of his life… The martyr [Soleimani's] ideology was based on the ability to implement Quranic facts on the ground. The most prominent of these facts is the battle [against Israel that will be called] 'the Promise of the Hereafter,'[12] which will put an end to the Jewish presence and strike deep [within the territory] of the traitors and agents throughout the region." 

Describing the first time he met Soleimani, Al-Zahhar said: "[It] was after I was appointed Palestinian foreign minister. On an official visit [to Iran], I presented the needs of the [Palestinian] government in terms of salaries and [other] financial commitments, and he immediately decided to provide this government with $22 million, which were transferred in suitcases, so we could pay the salaries, purchase medicines and meet other needs." Al-Zahhar added: "The role of the martyr Qassem [Soleimani] was prominent in everything pertaining to the Palestinian resistance, and never ended… He assisted Hamas and PIJ in everything, including in weapons, which helped them to establish their active resistance as a means of expelling the occupation from the Gaza Strip and responding to the enemy's attacks…"[13] 

Hamas Official Isma'il Radwan: Thanks To Soleimani, The Palestinian Resistance Started Manufacturing Its Own Long-Range Precision Weapons

In an interview he gave to the Iranian news agency Mehr on the occasion of the anniversary of Soleimani's killing, Hamas official Isma'il Radwan described the assistance extended by Soleimani to Hamas and the other Palestinian resistance factions, especially by providing them with Kornet missiles and with practical knowhow on rocket manufacture. Mehr reported: "Radwan said that the martyr [Soleimani]… invested great efforts in the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine… He remained constantly in touch with the resistance movements, headed by Hamas and the PIJ – [and with their military branches], the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades and the Resistance Brigades [i.e., the Al-Quds Brigades] – and played a significant role in helping the resistance in Palestine on the financial, military and training levels, and in [maintaining] morale. [Radwan] added that the Palestinian resistance developed thanks to Hajj Qassem [Soleimani]. The fingerprints of this martyred general are clearly evident in this development, [he said,] for the resistance has attained considerable power and a high level of readiness. This is evident in the missile arsenal of the resistance, which is now more effective and has a longer range, covering every part of the Palestinian homeland…

"Radwan added that, thanks to Allah first of all, and also thanks to the help of Hajj Qassem [Soleimani] and the jihad fighters in Palestine, 'we are now very close to liberating Palestine, all of Palestine'…

"Dr. Radwan disclosed that General Qassem Soleimani… [also] spared no effort to provide Gaza with precise missiles, especially Kornet anti-tank missiles, and that, despite the siege on Gaza he overcame all the obstacles and provided the resistance with the weapons it needed to confront the Zionist occupier. He said that Hajj Qassem did not only provide the Palestinians with fish but also taught them to fish for themselves: The resistance benefited from Iran's practical experience, which Soleimani managed to deliver to the besieged [Gaza] Strip, so that the resistance started manufacturing its own precise, long-range weapons with extensive fire-power, in Gaza itself.  [Radwan] said that the precise missiles of the resistance… cover all the territory of the Palestinian homeland, now that the resistance has managed to obtain new kinds of missiles with a range of up to 250 km, in addition to drones; naval, intelligence and cyber capabilities, the tunnel system and all the preparations it made under the oversight of Hajj Qassem…"[14] 

PIJ Official Khaled Al-Batsh: Soleimani Is Responsible For Coordinating The Resistance Factions' Operations

In an interview with Fars, PIJ Official Khaled Al-Batsh praised Soleimani's achievements and his contribution to the Palestinian resistance, saying: "The achievements that can be attributed to Qassem [Soleimani] are many, and most prominent among them is the ongoing military and logistical assistance he extended to the resistance factions. This was manifest in developing the abilities of the resistance and of its fighters in every possible way.

 

"[Soleimani] is also responsible for the ongoing effort to strengthen the ties among the various [Palestinian] resistance factions and unite them, and to coordinate among the resistance factions and forces in every arena, despite the geographical distance [between them]… He created a reality of coordination among all the arenas surrounding the Zionist enemy, and thanks to these efforts, [the enemy] is now surrounded on every side by true resistance forces that can target it at any moment, and can wage a unified campaign and combine all the guns on Palestinian soil…

 

"From the minute he undertook this task, Hajj Qassem [Soleimani] never stopped helping to strengthen the resistance factions in Palestine, assisting them with weapons and funds and improving their combat abilities in general. The resistance demonstrated [these abilities] in the battle [against Israel] in 2012, after the assassination of the martyr[Ahmad Al-Ja'bari, when it fired blessed Fajr missiles at Tel Aviv. This was a clear indication of the scope of [Soleimani's] assistance and of his significant involvement in assisting the jihad fighters in Palestine…"[15]

 

PIJ Secretary-General: Soleimani Personally Oversaw The Delivery Of Rockets, Weapons And Knowhow To Us

In a ceremony in Beirut on January 3, 2021, attended by Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Jalal Firouznia, PIJ secretary-general Ziyad Al-Nakhalah stressed that Soleimani was martyred "for the sake of Palestine, Islam and liberty," and added: "Two years ago today we lost the brave and outstanding commander Hajj Qassem [Soleimni]… For over 50 years [sic] he stood in the eye of the storm, fighting the forces of evil everywhere… O Hajj Qassem, they spilled your blood because you were an obstacle to the U.S. and the Zionist enemy, [who wished] to reshape the region in their image and according to their interests. Yes! You are the knight who turned the poverty-stricken fighters into a strategic threat to the Zionist and American enemies…

 

"The first rockets fired by Palestinian hands to destroy the capital of the Zionist entity[16] were delivered to the jihad fighters of Palestine under [Soleimani's] personal oversight, along with a wide range of other weapons that we continue to use in all our campaigns, as well as the abundant and varied knowhow that was delivered to the jihad fighters under the oversight of [Soleimani]  and his brethren [in the Qods Force], whose impact you have witnessed in all our campaigns, especially in Operation Sword of Jerusalem [i.e., the round of fighting in Gaza in May 2021]. Hajj Qassem always stood in the line of fire, following in the footsteps of Hamza Bin 'Abd Al-Mutallib, the chief of the martyrs.[17] He was martyred crying out 'death to America! Death to Israel!'…"[18]

 

 

[2] On Hamas' expressions of loyalty to Iran ahead of the first anniversary of Soleimani's death, and the controversy sparked by the erection of billboards commemorating him in Gaza, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9123; see also Marking Anniversary Of Killing Of IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, Hamas Continues To Signal Loyalty To Iran, Resistance Axis, January 5, 2021.

[4] Facebook.com/profile.php?id=10006818564484, December 30, 2021.

[5] Facebook.com/profile.php?id=10006818564484, December 31, 2021.

[6] Facebook.com/profile.php?id=10006818564484, December 31, 2021.

[7] Facebook.com/profile.php?id=10006818564484, January 3, 2022.

[8] Tasnim news.com, January 2, 2022. The Popular Resistance Committees are the third most prominent faction in Gaza, after Hamas and the PIJ. It should be noted that the statement was later removed from the Tasnim website, for unclear reasons.

[9] Facebook.com/profile.php?id=10006818564484, January 3, 2022.

[10] Hamas.ps, January 5, 2022.

[11] Ar.farsnews.ir, January 2, 2022.

[12] Al-Zahhar, a member of Hamas' political bureau, recently referred the "battle of the End of Days," saying in an interview with the Gazan daily Filastin that the Palestinian people, and the entire Islamic nation, now stand on the brink of a final battle against Israel in which Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan must participate. He added that this battle will be a bigger and more intense version of the Sword of Jerusalem campaign (i.e., the Hamas-Israel confrontation in May 2021), and will "finish off the occupation entity in a single day." See MEMRI  Special Dispatch No. 9575 – Hamas-Sponsored 'Promise Of The Hereafter' Conference For The Phase Following The Liberation Of Palestine And Israel's 'Disappearance': We Must Differentiate Between Jews Who Should And Should Not Be Killed, And Prevent A Jewish 'Brain Drain' From Palestine, October 4, 2021.

[13] Ar.farsnews.ir, January 2, 2022.

[14] Mehrnews.com, ar.mehrnews.com, January 2, 2022.

[15] Ar.farsnews.ir, January 2, 2022.

[16] Sic; the PIJ movement does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, so the reference here is apparently to rockets it fired towards Tel Aviv.

[17] Hamza Bin 'Abd Al-Mutallib was the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, who fell in the Battle of Uhud between the Muslims and the Qurayshi Meccans in 625.

[18] Jehad.ps, January 4, 2022.

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