Iran’s president on Friday delivered an unprecedented speech to an annual pro-Palestinian rally in the Gaza Strip — a display of Iran’s importance to the Hamas militant group that rules the territory.
In a virtual address to hundreds of supporters of Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad group gathered at a soccer field, Ebrahim Raisi urged Palestinians to press on with their struggle against Israel.
“The initiative to self-determination is today in the hands of the Palestinian fighters,” Raisi said, dismissing Hamas’ domestic political rival, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which has long sought to win Palestinian statehood through negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian Authority administers autonomous enclaves in Judea and Samaria.
Raisi’s speech was seen as part of efforts to mend a rift between Hamas and its long-time patron, Iran, over the devastating civil war in Syria.
Raisi addressed the crowd on the occasion of “Jerusalem Day,” or al-Quds Day after the city’s Arabic name, which falls on the final Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Jerusalem is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site of Islam. The mosque sits atop a walled esplanade, a compound that was the site of biblical Jewish temples and is revered as the most sacred site in Judaism….
Although Hamas is a Sunni Muslim group, it has a militant wing that has long nurtured close ties with Iran, a source of funding and a Shiite powerhouse. Hamas and Iran are brought together by a shared enmity toward Israel.
While Iran has not revealed the details of its support, Hamas has publicly praised the Islamic Republic for its assistance. Experts say Iran’s support is both financial and political — now mostly blueprint technology, engineering know-how and training to help the militant group grow its own homemade arsenal of advanced rockets that can strike all of Israel’s territory….
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